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Horsford Pond 




A History of the Propagation of the 
Muslim Faith 







/ :3 o 4- 9 


• AT 








It is with considerable diffidence that I pubHsh these 
pages; the subject with which they deal is so vast, and I 
have had to prosecute it under circumstances so disad- 
vantageous, that I can hope but for small measure of 
success. When I may be better equipped for the task, 
and after further study has enabled me to fill up the gaps ^ 
left in the present work, I hope to make it a more worthy 
contribution to this neglected department of Muhammadan 
history; and to this end I shall be deeply grateful for the 
criticisms and corrections of any scholars who may deign 
to notice the book. To such I would say in the words of 
St. Augustine : " Qui haec legens dicit, intelligo quidem quid 
dictum sit, sed non vere dictum est ; asserat ut placet sen- 
tentiam suam, et redarguat meam, si potest. Quod si cum 
caritate et veritate fecerit, mihique etiam (si in hac vita 
maneo) cognoscendum facere curaverit, uberrimum fructum 
laboris huius mei cepero." ^ 

As I can neither claim to be an authority nor a specialist 
on any of the periods of history dealt with in this book, and 
as many of the events referred to therein have become matter 
for controversy, I have given full references to the sources 
consulted ; and here I have thought it better to err on the 
side of excess rather than that of defect. I have myself 
suffered so much inconvenience and wasted so much time 
in hunting up references to books indicated in some obscure 
or unintelligible manner, that I would desire to spare others 
a similar annoyance ; and while to the general reader I 
may appear guilty of pedantry, I may perchance save trouble 
to some scholar who wishes to test the accuracy of a state- 
ment or pursue any part of the subject further. 

The scheme adopted in this book for the transliteration 
of Arabic words is that laid down by the Transhteration 
Committee of the Tenth International Congress of Oriental- 
ists, held at Geneva in 1894, with the exception that the 
last letter of the article is assimilated to the so-called solar 

^ E.g. The spread of Islam in Sicily and the missionary labours of the 
numerous Muslim saints. 

* De Trinitate, i. 5. (Migne, tom. xlii, p. 823.) 



letters. In the case of geographical names this scheme 
has not been so rigidly applied — in many instances because 
I could not discover the original Arabic form of the word, 
in others (e. g. Mecca, Medina), because usage has almost 
created for them a prescriptive title. 

Though this work is confessedly, as explained in the 
Introduction, a record of missionary efforts and not a history 
of persecutions, 1 I have endeavoured to be strictly impartial 
and to conform to the ideal laid down by the Christian 
historian ^ who chronicled the successes of the Ottomans 
and the fall of Constantinople : ovre Trpog x'^P^'^ ^^"^^ irpoq 
(f)66vov, aXX' ovde Trpog filoog rj koI irpog evvoiav ovyypdipeiv 
Xp€d)v iozi xdv ov'y'ypd(f>ovra, aXX,' loropiag fiovov %a/ji)^ /cat rov 
firj Xrjdrjg ^vdqj irapadodfjvai, rjv 6 xP^vog olde yevvdv, rrjv 

I desire to thank Her Excellency the Princess Barberini ; 
His Excellency the Prince Chigi; the Most Rev. Dr. Paul 
Goethals, Archbishop of Calcutta; the Right Rev. Fr. 
Francis Pesci, Bishop of Allahabad ; the Rev. S. S. Allnutt, 
of the Cambridge Mission, Dehli; the Trustees of Dr. 
Williams's Library, Gordon Square, London, for the liberal 
use they have allowed me of their respective libraries. 

I am under an especial debt of gratitude to James 
Kennedy, Esq., late of the Bengal Civil Service, who has 
never ceased to take a kindly interest in my book, though 
it has almost exemplified the Horatian precept, Nonum 
prematur in annum; to his profound scholarship and wide 
reading I have been indebted for much information that 
would otherwise have remained unknown to me, nor do I 
owe less to the stimulus of his enthusiastic love of learning 
and his helpful sympathy. I am also under a debt of 
gratitude to the kindness of Conte Ugo Balzani, but for 
whose assistance certain parts of my work would have been 
impossible to me. To the late Professor Robertson Smith 
I am indebted for valuable suggestions as to the lines of 
study on which the history of the North African Church 
and the condition of the Christians under Muslim rule, 
should be worked out ; the profound regret which all Semitic 
scholars feel at his loss is to me intensified by the thought 
that this is the only acknowledgment I am able to make 
of his generous help and encouragement. 

^ Accordingly the reader will find no account of the recent history of 
Armenia or Crete, or indeed of any part of the empire of the Turks during 
the present century — a period singularly barren of missionary enterprise 
on their part. 

* Phrantzes, p. 5. 


I desire also to acknowledge my obligations to Sir 
Sayyid Ahmad Khan Bahadur, K.C.S.I., LL.D. ; to my 
learned friend and colleague, Shamsu-1 'Ulama' Mawlawi 
Muhammad Shibll Nu'manl, who has assisted me most 
generously out of the abundance of his knowledge of early 
Muhammadan history; and to my former pupil, Mawlawi 
Bahadur 'All, M.A. 

Lastly, and above all, must I thank my dear wife, but 
for whom this work would never have emerged out of a 
chaos of incoherent materials, and whose sympathy and 
approval are the best reward of my labours. 

Ah'garh, iSgd* 


The first edition of this book having been out of print 
for several years and frequent inquiries having been made 
for copies, this new edition has been prepared and an effort 
has been made to revise the work in the hght of the fresh 
materials that have accumulated during the last sixteen 
years; but I can make no claim to have made myself 
acquainted with the whole of the vast literature on the 
subject, in upwards of ten different languages, which has 
been published during this interval. The growing interest 
in Islam and the various branches of study connected with 
it, may be estimated from the fact that since 1906 five 
periodicals have made their appearance devoted to investi- 
gations cognate to the subject-matter of the present work, 
viz. Revue du Monde Musulman, publiee par La Mission 
Scientifique du Maroc (Paris, 1906- ) ; Der Islam, Zeit- 
schrift fiir Geschichte und Kultur des islamischen Orients 
(Strassburg, 1910- ) ; The Moslem World, a quarterly 
review of current events, literature, and thought among 
Mohammedans, and the progress of Christian Missions 
in Moslem lands (London, 1911- ) ; Mir Islama (St. 
Petersburg, 191 2- ) ; and Die Welt des Islams, Zeitschrift 
der deutschen Gesellschaft fiir Islamkunde (Berlin, 1913- ). 
The Christian missionary societies are also now devoting 
increased attention to the subject of Muslim missionary 
activity and accordingly it takes up a proportionately larger 
place in their publications than before. 

This second edition would have been completed several 
years ago but for the illiberal policy which closes the Reading 
Room of the British Museum at 7 o'clock and has thus 
made it practically inaccessible to me except on Saturdays.^ 
I therefore desire to express my grateful thanks to those 
friends who have facilitated my labours by the loan of 
books from the Libraries of the University of Leiden and 
the University of Utrecht (through the kind offices of 

^ The student of the literature of Science or of the Fine Arts finds the 
libraries at South Kensington open till lo o'clock on three evenings every 
week, but the one library in this country that aims at any completeness 
is available only to such students as are at leisure during the day-time. 



Professor Wensinck), and the ficole des Langues Orientales 
Vivantes, Paris; — to Mr. J. A. Oldham, editor of The Inter- 
national Review of Missions, I am indebted for the loan 
of volumes of the Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift, a set 
of which I have been unable to find in London ; my thanks 
are specially due to Dr. F. W. Thomas, who has allowed me 
to study for lengthy periods (along with other books from 
the India Office Library) the monumental Annali dell' 
Islam by Leone Caetani, Principe di Teano, — a work of 
inestimable value for the early history of Islam, but unfor- 
tunately placed out of the reach of the average scholar by 
reason of its great cost. 

I am also much indebted for several valuable indications 
to those scholars who reviewed the book when it first 
appeared, — above all, to Professor Goldziher, whose sym- 
pathetic interest in this work has encouraged me to 
continue it. 

London., igij. 





A missionary religion defined. Islam a missionary religion; its 
extent. The Qur'an enjoins preaching and persuasion, and 
forbids violence and force in the conversion of unbelievers. 
The present work a history of missions, not of persecutions 



Muhammad the type of the Muslim missionary. Account of his 
early efforts at propagating Islam, and of the conversions made 
in Mecca before the Hijrah. Persecution of the converts, and 
migration to Medina. Condition of the Muslims in Medina : 

^beginning of the national life of Islam. Islam offered (a) to the 
Arabs, {^) to the whole world. Islam declared in the Qur'an to 
be a universal religion, — as being the primitive faith delivered 
^to Abraham. Muhammad as the founder of a political organisa- 
tion. The spread of Islam and the efforts made to convert the 
Arabs after the Hijrah. The ideals of Islam and those of 

^Pre-Islamic Arabia contrasted 




The Arab conquests and expansion of the Arab race after the death 
of Muhammad. Conversion of Christian Bedouins. Causes of 
the early successes of the Muslims. Toleration extended to 
those who remained Christian. — The settled population of the 
towns : failure of Heraclius's attempt to reconcile the contend- 
ing Christian sects. The Arab conquest of Syria and Palestine : 
their toleration : the Ordinance of 'Umar : jizyah paid in return 
for protection and in lieu of military service. Condition of 
the Christians under Muslim rule : they occupy high posts, 
build new churches : revival in the Nestorian Church. Causes 
of their conversion to Islam : revolt against Byzantine ecclesi- 
asticism : influence of rationalistic thought : imposing character 
of Muslim civilisation. Persecutions suffered by the Christians. 
Proselytising efforts. Details of conversion to Islam. — Account 
of conversions from among the Crusaders. — The Armenian 
and Georgian Churches ........ 45 







Egypt : conquered by the Arabs, who are welcomed by the Copts 
as their dehverers from Byzantine rule. Condition of the 
Copts under the Muslims. Corruption and negligence of the 
clergy lead to conversions to Islam. — Nubia : relations with 
Muhammadan powers : gradual decay of the Christian faith. 
— Abyssinia : the Arabs on the sea-board : missionary efforts 
in the fourteenth century : invasion of Ahmad Grafi : con- 
versions to Islam : progress of Islam in recent years. — 
Northern Africa : extent of Christianity in North Africa in the 
seventh century : the Christians are said to have been forcibly 
converted : reasons for thinking that this statement is not true : 
toleration enjoyed by the Christians : gradual disappearance of 
the Christian Church 102 



Christianity in Spain before the Muslim conquest : miserable con- 
dition of the Jews and the slaves. Early converts to Islam. 
Corruption of the clergy. Toleration of the Arabs, and influence 
of their civilisation on the Christians, who study Arabic and 
adopt Arab dress and manners. Causes of conversion to Islam. 
The voluntary martyrs of Cordova. Extent of the conversions 131 



Relations of the Turks to their Christian subjects during the first 
two centuries of their rule : toleration extended to the Greek 
Church by Muhammad II : the benefits of Ottoman rule : its 
disadvantages, the tribute-children, the capitation-tax, tyranny 
of individuals. Forced conversion rare. Proselytising efforts 
made by the Turks. Circumstances that favoured the spread of 
Islam: degraded condition of the Greek Church: failure of the 
attempt to Protestantise the Greek Church : oppression of the 
Greek clergy : moral superiority of the Ottomans : imposing 
character of their conquests. Conversion of Christian slaves. — 
Islam in Albania, conquest of the country, independent character 
of its people, gradual decay of the Christian faith, and its 
causes ; — in Servia, alliance of the Servians with the Turks, 
conversions mainly from among the nobles except in Old 
Servia ;— in Montenegro ; — in Bosnia, the Bogomiles, points of 
similarity between the Bogomilian heresy and the Muslim creed, 
conversion to Islam ; — in Crete, conversion in the ninth century, 
oppression of the Venetian rule, conquered by the Turks, con- 
versions to Islam 145 





Religious condition of Persia at the time of the Arab conquest. 
Islam welcomed by many sections of the population. Points 
of similarity between the older faiths and Islam. Toleration. 
Conversions to Islam. The Isma'ilians and their missionary 
system. Islam in Central Asia and Afghanistan . . . 206 



Account of the Mongol conquests. Buddhism, Christianity and 
Islam in rivalry for the allegiance of the Mongols. Their 
original religion, Shamanism, described. Spread of Buddhism, 
of Christianity, and of Islam respectively among the Mongols. 
Difficulties that stood in the way of Islam. Cruel treatment of 
the Muslims by some Mongol rulers. Early converts to Islam. 
Baraka Khan, the first Mongol prince converted. Conversion 
of the Ilkhans. Conversion of the Chagjiatay Mongols. 
History of Islam under the Golden Horde : Uzbek Khan : 
failure of attempts to convert the Russians. Spread of Islam 
in modern times in the Russian Empire. The conversion 
of the Tatars of Siberia 218 



Distribution of the Muhammadan population. Part taken by the 
Muhammadan rulers in the propagation of Islam : conversion 
of Rajputs and others. — The work of the Muslim missionaries 
in India ; traditions of early missionary efforts in South India, 
forced conversions under Haydar 'AH and Tipu Sultan, the 
Mappilas : — in the Maldive Islands : — in the Deccan, early 
Arab settlements, labours of individual missionaries : — in Sind, 
the rule of the Arabs, their toleration, account of individual ' ' 
missionaries, conversion of the Khojahs and Bohras :— in 
Bengal, the Muhammadan rule in this province, extensive con- 
versions of the lower castes, religious revival in recent times. 
— Particular account of the labours of Muslim missionaries in 
other parts of India. Propagationist movements of modern 
times. Circumstances facilitating the progress of Islam : the 
oppressiveness of the Hindu caste system, worship of Muslim 
saints, etc. — Spread of Islam in Kashmir and Tibet . . , 254 



Early notices of Islam in China. Intercourse of the Chinese with 
the Arabs. Legendary account of the first introduction of 
Islam into China. Muslims under the T'ang dynasty : influence 
of the Mongol conquest ; Islam under the Ming dynasty. 
Relations of the Chinese Muslims to the Chinese Government. 
Their efforts to spread their religion 294 





The Arabs in Northern Africa: conversion of the Berbers : the 
mission of 'Abd Allah b. Yasln. Introduction of Islam into 
the Sudan : rise of Muhammadan kingdoms : account of 
missionary movements, Danfodio, 'Uthman al-Amlr Ghanl, the 
Qadiriyyah, the Tijaniyyah, and the Saniisiyyah. Spread of 
Islam on the West Coast : Ashanti : Dahomey. Spread of 
Islam on the East Coast : early Muslim settlements : recent 
expansion in German East Africa : the Galla : the Somali. 
Islam in Cape Coast Colony. Account of the Muslim mission- 
aries in Africa and their methods of winning converts . « 312 



Early intercourse between the Malay Archipelago and Arabia and 
India. Methods of missionary work. History of Islam in 
Sumatra ; in the Malay Peninsula ; in Java ; in the Moluccas ; 
in Borneo; in Celebes; in the Philippine and the Sulu Islands; 
among the Papuans. The Muslim missionaries : traders : hajis 363 



Absence of missionary organisation in Islam : zeal on the part ot 
individuals. Who are the Muslim missionaries ? Causes that 
^have contributed to their success : the simplicity of the Muslim 
creed : the rationalism and ritualism of Islam. Islam not spread 
iby the sword. The toleration of Muhammadan governments. 
Circumstances contributing to the progress of Islam in ancient 
and in modern times 408 

Letter of al-Hashiml inviting al-Kindl to embrace Islam . . 428 


Controversial literature between Muslims and the followers of other 

faiths 436 

Muslim missionary societies 438 

Titles of Works cited by Abbreviated References . . 440 
Index 457 




Ever since Professor Max Miiller delivered his lecture in 
Westminster Abbey, on the day of intercession for missions, 
in December, 1873, it has been a hterary commonplace, 
that the six great religions of the world may be divided into 
missionary and non-missionary; under the latter head 
fall Judaism, Brahmanism and Zoroastrianism, and under 
the former Buddhism, Christianity and Islam ; and he well 
defined what the term, — a missionary religion, — should be 
taken to mean, viz. one " in which the spreading of the 
truth and the conversion of unbehevers are raised to the 
rank of a sacred duty by the founder or his immediate 
successors. ... It is the spirit of truth in the hearts of 
believers which cannot rest, unless it manifests itself in 
thought, word and deed, which is not satisfied till it has 
carried its message to every human soul, till what it believes 
to be the truth is accepted as the truth by all members of 
the human family." ^ 

It is such a zeal for the truth of their rehgion that has 
inspired the Muhammadans to carry with them the message 
of Islam to the people of every land into which they pene- 
trate, and that justly claims for their rehgion a place among 
those we term missionary. It is the history of the birth 
of this missionary zeal, its inspiring forces and the modes 
of its activity that forms the subject of the following pages. 
The 200 millions of Muhammadans scattered over the 

1 A note on Mr. Lyall's article : " Missionary Religions." Fortnightly 
Review, July, 1874. 


world at the present day are evidences of its workings 
through the length of thirteen centuries. 

The doctrines of this faith were first proclaimed to the 
people of Arabia in the seventh century, by a prophet under 
whose banner their scattered tribes became a nation ; and 
filled with the pulsations of this new national life, and with 
a fervour and enthusiasm that imparted an almost invincible 
strength to their armies, they poured forth over three 
continents to conquer and subdue. Syria, Palestine, 
Egypt, North Africa and Persia were the first to fall before 
them, and pressing westward to Spain and eastward beyond 
the Indus, the followers of the Prophet found themselves, 
one hundred years after his death, masters of an ehipire 
greater than that of Rome at the zenith of its power. 

Although in after years this great empire was split up 
and the political power of Islam diminished, still its 
spiritual conquests went on uninterruptedly. When the 
Mongol hordes sacked Baghdad (a.d. 1258) and drowned in 
blood the faded glory of the 'Abbasid dynasty, — when the 
Muslims were expelled from Cordova by Ferdinand of Leon 
and Castile (a.d. 1236), and Granada, the last stronghold 
of Islam in Spain, paid tribute to the Christian king, — Islam 
had just gained a footing in the island of Sumatra and was 
just about to commence its triumphant progress through 
the islands of the Malay Archipelago. _IrLthe hours of its 
political degradation, Islam has achieved some of its most 
brilliant spiritual conquests : on two great historical occa- 
sions, infidel barbarians have set their feet on the necks 
of the followers of the Prophet, — the Saljiiq Turks in the 
eleventh and the Mongols in the thirteenth century, — and 
in each case the conquerors have accepted the religion of 
the conquered. Unaided also by the temporal power, 
Muslim missionaries have carried their faith into Central 
Africa, China and the East India Islands. 

At the present day the faith of Islam extends from Morocco 
to Zanzibar, from Sierra Leone to Siberia and China, from 
Bosnia to New Guinea. Outside the limits of strictly 
Muhammadan countries and of lands, such as China and 
Russia, that contain a large Muhammadan population, 
there are some few small communities of the followers of 


the Prophet, which bear witness to the faith of Islam in 
the midst of unbehevers. Such are the Pohsh-speaking 
Mushms of Tatar origin in Lithuania, that inliabit the 
districts of Kovno, Vilno and Grodno ; ^ the Dutch-speaking 
Mushms of Cape Colony; and the Indian coohes that have 
carried the faith of Islam with them to the West India 
Islands and to British and Dutch Guiana. In recent 
years, too, Islam has found adherents in England, in North 
America, Australia and Japan. 

The spread of this faith over so vast a portion of the globe 
is due to various causes, social, political and religious : 
but among these, one of the most powerful factors at work 
in the production of this stupendous result, has been the 
unremitted labours of Muslim missionaries, who, with the 
Prophet himself as their great ensample, have spent them- 
selves for the conversion of unbelievers. 

The duty of missionary work is no after-thought in the 
history of Islam, but was enjoined on believers from the 
beginning, as may be judged from the following passages 
in the Qur'an, — which are here quoted in chronological 
order according to the date of their being delivered. 

" Summon thou to the way of thy Lord with wisdom 
and with kindly warning : dispute with them in the 
kindest manner, (xvi. 126.) 

" They who have inherited the Book after them (i.e. the 
Jews and Christians), are in perplexity of doubt 
concerning it. 

" For this cause summon thou (them to the faith), and 
walk uprightly therein as thou hast been bidden, 
and follow not their desires : and say : In whatsoever 
Books God hath sent down do I believe : I am com- 
manded to decide justly between you : God is your 
Lord and our Lord : we have our works and you have 
your works : between us and you let there be no 
strife : God will make us all one : and to Him shall 
we return." (xlii. 13-14.) 

Similar injunctions are found also in the Medinite Siirahs, 

^ Reclus, vol. V. p. 433; Gasztowtt, p. 320 sqq. 


delivered at a time when Muhammad was at the head of 
a large army and at the height of his power. 

" Say to those who have been given the Book and to the 
ignorant, Do you accept Islam ? Then, if they 
accept Islam, are they guided aright : but if they 
turn away, then thy duty is only preaching; and 
God's eye is on His servants, (iii. 19.) 

" Thus God clearly showeth you His signs that perchance 
ye may be guided ; 

" And that there may be from among you a people who 
invite to the Good, and enjoin the Just, and forbid 
the Wrong; and these are they with whom it shall 
be well. (iii. 99-100.) 

" To every people have We appointed observances which 
they observe. Therefore let them not dispute the 
matter with thee, but summon them to thy Lord : 
Verily thou art guided aright : 

" But if they debate with thee, then say : God best 
knoweth what ye do ! " (xxii. 66-67.) 

The following passages are taken from what is generally 
supposed to be the last Surah that was delivered. 

" If any one of those who join gods with God ask an 
asylum of thee, grant him an asylum in order that 
he may hear the word of God ; then let him reach his 
place of safety." (ix. 6.) 

With regard to the unbelievers who had broken their 
plighted word, who " sell the signs of God for a mean price 
and turn others aside from His way," and " respect not 
with a believer either ties of blood or good faith," ... it 
is said : — 

" Yet if they turn to God and observe prayer and give 
alms, then are they your brothers in the faith : and 
We make clear the signs for men of knowledge." 
(ix. II.) 

Thus from its very inception Islam has been a missionary 
rehgion, both in theory and in practice, for the life of 
Muhammad exemplifies the same teaching, and the Prophet 


himself stands at the head of a long series of Muslim 
missionaries who have won an entrance for their faith into 
the hearts of unbehevers. Moreover it is not in the cruelties 
of the persecutor or the fury of the fanatic that we should 
look for the evidences of the missionary spirit of Islam, 
any more than in the exploits of that mythical personage, 
the Muslim warrior with sword in one hand and Qur'an 
in the other, ^ — but in the quiet, unobtrusive labours of the 
preacher and the trader who have carried their faith into 
every quarter of the globe. Such peaceful methods of 
preaching and persuasion were not adopted, as some would 
have us believe, only when political circumstances made 
force and violence impossible or impolitic, but were most 
strictly enjoined in numerous passages of the Qur'an, as 
follows : — 

" And endure what they say with patience, and depart 
from them with a decorous departure. 

" And let Me alone with the gainsayers, rich in the 
pleasures (of this life) ; and bear thou with them yet 
a little while. (Ixxiii. lo-ii.) 

" (My) sole (work) is preaching from God and His message. 
(Ixxii. 24.) 

" Tell those who have beheved to pardon those who hope 
not for the days of God in which He purposeth to 
recompense men according to their deserts, (xlv. 13.) 

" They who had joined other gods with God say, * Had 
He pleased, neither we nor our forefathers had 
worshipped aught but Him; nor had we, apart from 
Him, declared anything unlawful.' Thus acted 
they who were before them. Yet is the duty of the 
apostles other than plain-spoken preaching ? (xvi. 


^ This misinterpretation of the MusHm wars of conquest has arisen from 
the assumption that wars waged for the extension of Mushm domination 
over the lands of the unbehevers implied that the aim in view was their 
conversion. Goldziher has well pointed out this distinction in his Vor- 
lesungen fiber den Islam : " Was Muhammed zunachst in seinem arabischen 
Umkreise getan, das hinterlasst er als Testament fur die Zukunft seiner 
Gemeinde : Bekampfung der Unglaubigen, die Ausbreitung nicht so sehr 
des Glaubens als seiner Machtsphare, die die Machtsphare AUahs ist. Es 
ist dabei den Kampfern des I slams zunachst nicht so sehr um Bekehrung 
als um Unterwerfung der Unglaubigen zu tun," (p. 25.) 


" Then if they turn their backs, still thy office is only 
plain-spoken preaching, (xvi. 84.) 

" Dispute ye not, unless in kindliest sort, with the people 
of the Book; save with such of them as have dealt 
wrongfully (with you) : and say ye, ' We believe in 
what has been sent down to us and hath been sent 
down to you. Our God and your God is one, and 
to Him are we self-surrendered.' (xxix. 45.) 

" But if they turn aside from thee, yet We have not 
sent thee to be guardian over them. 'Tis thine but 
to preach, (xlii. 47.) 

" But if thy Lord had pleased, verily all who are in the 
world would have beheved together. Wilt thou 
'^ then compel men to become believers ? (x. 99.) 

" And we have not sent thee otherwise than to mankind 
— .^ at large, to announce and to warn." (xxxiv. 27.) 

Such precepts are not confined to the Meccan Surahs, but 
are found in abundance also in those delivered at Medina, 
as follows : — 

" Let there be no compulsion in religion, (ii. 257.) 

" Obey God and obey the apostle; but if ye turn away, 

yet is our apostle only charged with plain-spoken 

preaching. (Ixiv. 12.) 
" Obey God and obey the apostle : but if ye turn back, 

still the burden of his duty is on him only, and the 

burden of your duty rests on you. And if ye obey 

him, ye shall have guidance : but plain preaching is 

all that devolves upon the apostle, (xxiv. 53.) 
" Say : O men ! I am only your plain-spoken (open) 

Warner, (xxii. 48.) 
" Verily We have sent thee to be a witness and a herald 

of good and a warner, 
" That ye may believe on God and on His apostle; and 

may assist Him and honour Him, and praise Him 

morning and evening, (xlviii. 8-9.) 
" Thou wilt not cease to discover the treacherous ones 

among them, except a few of them. But forgive 

them and pass it over. Verily, God loveth those 

who act generously." (v. 16.) 


It is the object of the following pages to show how this 
ideal was realised in history and how these principles of 
missionary activity were put into practice b}^ the exponents 
of Islam. And at the outset the reader should clearly 
understand that this work is not intended to be a history 
of Muhammadan persecutions but of Muhammadan missions 
— it does not aim at chronicling the instances of forced 
conversions which may be found scattered up and down 
the pages of Muhammadan histories. European writers 
have taken such care to accentuate these, that there is no 
fear of their being forgotten, and they do not strictly come 
within the province of a history of missions. In a history 
of Christian missions we should naturally expect to hear 
more of the labours of St. Liudger and St. Willehad among 
the pagan Saxons than of the baptisms that Charlemagne 
forced them to undergo at the point of the sword. ^ The 
true missionaries of Denmark were St. Ansgar and his 
successors rather than King Cnut, who forcibly rooted 
out paganism from his dominions. ^ Abbot Gottfried and 
Bishop Christian, though less successful in converting the 
pagan Prussians, were more truly representative of Christian 
missionary work than the Brethren of the Sword and other 
Crusaders who brought their labours to completion by means 
of fire and sword. The knights of the " Ordo fratrum 
militiae Christi " forced Christianity on the people of Livonia, 
but it is not to these militant propagandists but to the monks 
Meinhard and Theodoric that we should point as being the 
true missionaries of the Christian faith in this country. 
The violent means sometimes employed by the Jesuit 
missionaries ^ cannot derogate from the honour due to 
St. Francis Xavier and other preachers of the same order. 
Nor is Valentyn any the less the apostle of Amboyna be- 
cause in 1699 ^^ order was promulgated to the Rajas of this 

^ See Enhardi Fuldensis Annales, a.d. 777. " Saxones post multas 
caedes et varia bella afflicti, tandem christiani effecti, Francorum dicioni 
subduntur." G. H. Pertz : Monumenta Germanic Historica, vol. i.p. 349. 
(See also pp. 156, 159.) 

* " Turn zelo propagandas fidei succensus, barbara regna iusto certamine 
aggressus, devictas subditasque nationes christianse legi subiugavit." 
(Breviarium Romanum. lun. 19.) 

^ Mathurin Veyssiere de la Croze : Histoire du Christianisme des Indes, 
PP- 529-531- (The Hague, 1724.) 


island that they should have ready a certain number 
of pagans to be baptised, when the pastor came on his 

In the history of the Christian church missionary activity 
is seen to be intermittent, and an age of apostolic fervour 
may be succeeded by a period of apathy and indifference, 
or persecution and forced conversion may take the place of 
the preaching of the Word ; so likewise does the propaganda 
of Islam in various epochs of Muhammadan history ebb 
and flow. But since the zeal of proselytising is a distinct 
feature of either faith, its missionary history may fittingly 
be singled out as a separate branch of study, not as ex- 
cluding other manifestations of the religious life but as 
concentrating attention on an aspect of it that has special 
characteristics of its own. Thus the annals of propaganda 
and persecution may be studied apart from one another, 
whether in the history of the Christian or the Muslim 
church, though in both they may be at times commingled. 
For just as the Christian faith has not always been propa- 
gated by the methods adopted in Viken (the southern 
part of Norway) by King Olaf Trygvesson, who either 
slew those who refused to accept Christianity, or cut off 
their hands or feet, or drove them into banishment, and 
in this manner spread the Christian faith throughout the 
whole of Viken, 2 — and just as the advice of St. Louis has 
not been made a principle of Christian missionary work, — 
" When a layman hears the Christian law ill spoken of, 
he should not defend that law save with his sword, which 
he should thrust into the infidel's belly, as far as it will 
go," ^ — so there have been Muslim missionaries who have 
not been guided in their propagandist methods by the 
savage utterance of Marwan, the last of the 'Umayyad 
caliphs : " Whosoever among the people of Egypt does not 
enter into my religion and pray as I pray and follow my 
tenets, I will slay and crucify him." ^ Nor are al-Mutawak- 

1 Revue de I'Histoire des Religions, vol. xi. p. 89. 

* Konrad Maurer : Die Bekehrung des norwegischen Stammes zum 
Christenthume, vol. i. p. 284. (Miinchen, 1855.) 

* Jean, Sire dc Joinvillc : HLstoire de Saint Louis, ed. N. de Wailly, 

p- 30. .{§ 53)- 

* Severus, p. 191 Ql 21-2?). 


kil, al-Hakim and Tipu Sultan to be looked upon as typical 
missionaries of Islam to the exclusion of such preachers as 
Mawlana Ibrahim, the apostle of Java, Khwajah Mu'in al- 
Din Chishtl in India and countless others who won converts 
to the Muslim faith by peaceful means alone. 

But though a clear distinction can be drawn between 
conversion as the result of persecution and a peaceful propa- 
ganda by means of methods of persuasion, it is not so easy 
to ascertain the motives :.that have induced the convert to 
change his faith, or_ to discover whether the missionary 
has been wholly animated by a love of souls and by the 
high ideal set forth in the first paragraph of this chapter. 
Both in Christianity and Islam there have been at all times 
earnest souls to whom their religion has been the supreme 
reality of their lives, and this absorbing interest in matters 
of the spirit has found expression in that zeal for the 
communication of cherished truths and for the domination 
of doctrines and systems they have deemed perfect, which 
constitutes the vivifying force of missionary movements, — 
and there have likewise been those without the pale, 
who have responded to their appeal and have embraced 
the new faith with a like fervour. But, on the other hand, 
Islam — like Christianity — has reckoned among its adherents 
many persons to whom ecclesiastical institutions have been 
merely instruments of a political policy or forms of social 
organisation, to be accepted either as disagreeable neces- 
sities or as convenient solutions of problems that they do 
not care to think out for themselves ; such persons may ^ 
likewise be found among the converts of either faith. Thus 
both Christianity and Islam have added to the number of 
their followers by methods and under conditions — social, 
political and economic — which have no connection with 
such a thirst for souls as animates the true missionary. 
Moreover, the annals of missionary enterprise frequently 
record the admission of converts without any attempt to 
analyse the motives that have led them to change their 
faith, and especially for the history of Muslim missions 
there is a remarkable poverty of material in this respect, 
since Muslim literature is singularly poor in those records 
of conversions that occupy such a large place in the literature 


of the Christian church. Accordingly, in the following 
sketch of the missionary activity of Islam, it has not always 
been possible to discover whether political, social, economic 
or purely religious motives have determined conversion, 
though occasional reference can be made to the operation 
of one or the other influence. 




It is not proposed in this chapter to add another to the 
akeady numerous biographies of Muhammad, but rather 
to make a study of his hfe in one of its aspects only, viz. 
that in which the Prophet is presented to us as a preacher, 
as the apostle unto men of a new religion. The life of the 
founder of Islam and the inaugurator of its propaganda 
may naturally be expected to exhibit to us the true character 
of the missionary activity of this rehgion. If the life of the 
Prophet serves as the standard of conduct for the ordinary 
believer, it must do the same for the Muslim missionary. 
From the pattern, therefore, we may hope to learn something 
of the spirit that would animate those who sought to copy 
it, and of the methods they might be expected to adopt. 
For the missionary spirit of Islam is no after-thought in its 
history; it interpenetrates the rehgion from its very com- 
mencement, and in the following sketch it is desired to show 
how this is so, how Muhammad the Prophet is the tj^pe of 
the missionary of Islam. It is therefore beside the purpose 
to describe his early history, or the influences under which 
he grew up to manhood, or to consider him in the light 
either of a statesman or a general : it is as the preacher 
alone that he, will demand our attention. 

When, after long internal conflict and disquietude, 
Muhammad was at length convinced of his divine mission, 
his earliest efforts were directed towards persuading his 
own family of the truth of the new doctrine. The unity 
of God, the abomination of idolatry, the duty laid upon 
man of submission to the will of his Creator, — these were 
the simple truths to which he claimed their allegiance. 



The first convert was his faithful and loving wife, Ivhadijah. 
— she who fifteen years before had offered her hand in 
marriage to the poor kinsman that had so successfully 
traded with her merchandise as a hired agent, — with the 
words, " I love thee, my cousin, for thy kinship with me, 
for the respect with which thy people regard thee, for thy 
honesty, for the beauty of thy character and for the truth- 
fulness of thy speech." ^ She had lifted him out of poverty, 
and enabled him to five up to the social position to which 
he was entitled by right of birth ; but this was as nothing to 
the fidelity and loving devotion with which she shared his 
mental anxieties, and helped him with tenderest sympathy 
and encouragement in the hour of his despondency. 

Up to her death in a.d. 619 (after a wedded life of five 
and twent}^ years) she was always ready with sympathy, 
consolation and encouragement whenever he suffered from 
the persecution of his enemies or was tortured by doubts 
and misgivings. " So Hiadljah believed," says the bio- 
grapher of the Prophet, " and attested the truth of that 
which came to him from God and aided him in his under- 
taking. Thus was the Lord minded to lighten the burden 
of His Prophet ; for whenever he heard anything that 
grieved him touching his rejection by the people, he would 
return to her and God would comfort him through her, 
for she reassured him and hghtened his burden and de- 
clared her trust in him and made it easy for him to bear 
the scorn of men." ^ 

Among the earliest believers were his adopted children 
Zayd and 'AH, and his bosom friend Abu Bakr, of whom 
Muhammad would often say in after years, " I never 
"^ invited any to the faith who displayed not hesitation, 
perplexity and vacillation — excepting only Abii Bakr; 
who when I told him of Islam tarried not, neither was 
perplexed." He was a wealthy merchant, much respected 
by his fellow citizens for the integrity of his character and 
for his intelligence and ability. After his conversion he 
expended the greater part of his fortune on the purchase 
of Muslim slaves who were persecuted by their masters 
on account of their adherence to the teaching of Muhammad, 

1 Ito Jshaq, p. 130, * Id. p. 155. 


Through his influence, to a great extent, five of the earHest 
converts were added to the number of behevers, Sa'd b. 
Abi Waqqas, the future conqueror of the Persians; al- 
Zubayr b. al-'Awwam, a relative both of the Prophet and 
his wife; Talhah, famous as a warrior in after days; a 
wealthy merchant 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Awf, and 'Uthman, 
the third Hialifah. The last was early exposed to persecu- 
tion ; his uncle seized and bound him, saying, " Dost thou 
prefer a new religion to that of thy fathers ? I swear I will 
not loose thee until thou givest up this new faith thou art 
following after." To which 'Uthman rephed, " By the 
Lord, I will never abandon it ! " Whereupon his uncle, 
seeing the firmness of his attachment to his faith, released 

With other additions, particularly from among slaves 
and poor persons, the Prophet succeeded in collecting round 
him a little band of followers during the first three years 
of his mission. Encouraged by the success of these private 
efforts, Muhammad determined on more active measures 
and began to preach in public. He called his kinsmen 
together and invited them to embrace the new faith. 
" No Arab," he urged, " has offered to his nation more 
precious advantages than those I bring you. I offer you 
happiness in this world and in the life to come. Who 
among you will aid me in this task ? " All were silent. 
Only 'AH, with boyish enthusiasm, cried out, " Prophet of 
God, I will aid thee." At this the company broke up with 
derisive laughter. 

Undeterred by the ill-success of this preaching, he 
repeatedly appealed to them on other occasions, but his 
message and his warnings received from them nothing but 
scoffing and contempt. 

More than once the Quraysh tried to induce his uncle 
Abii Talib, as head of the clan of the Banii Hashim, to 
which Muhammad belonged, to restrain him from making 
such attacks upon their ancestral faith, or otherwise they 
threatened to resort to more violent measures. Abu 
Talib accordingly appealed to his nephew not to bring 
disaster on himself and his family. The Prophet replied : 
" Were the sun to come down on my right hand and the 


moon on my left, and the choice were offered me of abandon- 
ing my mission until God himself should reveal it, or 
perishing in the achievement of it, I would not abandon it." 
Abii Talib was moved and exclaimed, " Go and say whatever 
thou wilt : by God ! I will never give thee up unto thy 

The Quraysh viewed the progress of the new religion 
with increasing dissatisfaction and hatred. They adopted 
all possible means, threats and promises, insults and offers 
of worldly honour and aggrandisement to induce Muhammad 
to abandon the part he had taken up. The violent abuse 
with which he was assailed is said to have been the indirect 
cause of drawing to his side one important convert in the 
person of his uncle, Hamzah, whose chivalrous soul was so 
stung to sudden sympathy by a tale of insult inflicted on 
and patiently borne by his nephew, that he changed at 
once from a bitter enemy into a staunch adherent. His 
was not the only instance of sympathy for the sufferings 
of the Muslims being aroused at the sight of the persecu- 
tions they had to endure, and many, no doubt, secretly 
favoured the new religion who did not declare themselves 
until the day of its triumph. 

The hostility of the Quraysh to the new faith increased 
in bitterness as they watched the increase in the numbers 
of its adherents. They realised that the triumph of the 
new teaching meant the destruction of the national religion 
and the national worship, and a loss of wealth and power 
to the guardians of the sacred Ka'bah. Muhammad him- 
self was safe under the protection of Abut Talib and the 
Banu Hashim, who, though they had no sympathy for the 
doctrines their kinsman taught, yet with the strong clan- 
feeling peculiar to the Arabs, secured him from any attempt 
upon his life, though he was still exposed to continual 
insult and annoyance. But the poor who had no protector, 
and the slaves, had to endure the crudest persecution, 
and were imprisoned and tortured in order to induce them 
to recant. It was at this time that Abii Bakr purchased 
the freedom of Bilal,i an African slave, who was called by 

^ He is famous throughout the Muhammadan world as the first 


Muhammad " the first-fruits of Abyssinia." He had been 
cruelly tortured by being exposed, day after day, to the 
scorching rays of the sun, stretched out on his back, with 
an enormous stone on his stomach; here he was told he 
would have to stay until either he died or renounced 
Muhammad and worshipped idols, to which he would reply 
only, " There is but one God, there is but one God." Two 
persons died under the tortures they had to undergo. 
The constancy of a few gave way under the trial, but perse- 
cution served only to re-kindle the zeal of others. 'Abd Allah 
b. Mas'ud made bold to recite a passage of the Qur'an 
within the precincts of the Ka'bah itself, — an act of daring 
that none of the followers of Muhammad had ventured upon 
before. The assembled Quraysh attacked him and smote 
him on the face, but it was some time before they com- 
pelled him to desist. He returned to his companions, 
prepared to bear witness to his faith in a similar manner 
on the next day, but they dissuaded him, saying, " This 
is enough for thee, since thou hast made them hsten to 
what they hated to hear." 

The virulence of the opposition of the Quraysh is probably 
the reason why in the fourth year of his mission Muhammad 
took up his residence in the house of al-Arqam, one of the 
early converts. It was in a central situation, much fre- 
quented by pilgrims and strangers, and here peaceably 
and without interruption he was able to preach the doctrines 
of Islam to all enquirers that came to him. Muhammad's 
stay in this house marks an important epoch in the propa- 
gation of Islam in Mecca, and many Muslims dated their 
conversion from the days when the Prophet preached in 
the house of al-Arqam. . 

As Muhammad was unable to relieve his persecuted 
followers, he advised them to take refuge in Abyssinia, 
and in the fifth year of his mission (a.d. 615), eleven men and 
four women crossed over to Abyssinia, where they received 
a kind welcome from the Christian king of the country. 
Among them was a certain Mus'ab b. 'Umayr whose 
history is interesting as of one who had to endure that 
most bitter trial of the new convert — the hatred of those 
he loves and who once loved him. He had been led to 


embrace Islam through the teaching he had hstened to in the 
house of al-Arqam, but he was afraid to let the fact of his 
conversion become known, because his tribe and his mother, 
who bore an especial love to him, were bitterly opposed to 
the new religion; and indeed, when they discovered the 
fact, seized and imprisoned him. But he succeeded in 
effecting his escape to Abyssinia. 

The hatred of the Quraysh is said to have pursued the 
fugitives even to Abyssinia, and an embassy was sent to 
demand their extradition from the king of that country. 
But when he heard their story from the Muslims, he 
refused to withdraw from them his protection. In 
answer to his enquiries as to their religion, they said : 
" O King, we were plunged in the darkness of ignorance, 
worshipping idols, and eating carrion ; we practised abomina- 
tions, severed the ties of kinship and maltreated our 
neighbours ; the strong among us devoured the weak ; and 
so we remained until God sent us an apostle, from among 
ourselves, whose lineage we knew as well as his truth, his 
trustworthiness and the purity of his life. He called upon 
us to worship the One God and abandon the stones and 
idols that our fathers had worshipped in His stead. He 
bade us be truthful in speech, faithful to our promises, 
compassionate and kind to our parents and neighbours, 
and to desist from crime and bloodshed. He forbade to 
do evil, to lie, to rob the orphan or defame women. He 
enjoined on us the worship of God alone, with prayer, 
almsgiving and fasting. And we believed in him and 
followed the teachings that he brought us from God. But 
our countr}TTien rose up against us and persecuted us to 
make us renounce our faith, and^return to the worship of 
idols and the abominations of our forhienlife. So when they 
cruelly entreated us, reducing us to bitter "Straits and came 
between us and the practice of our religion, we took refuge 
in your country; putting our trust in your justice, we hope 
that you will deliver us from the oppression of our enemies." 
Their prayer was heard and the embassy of the Quraysh re- 
turned discomfited.^ Meanwhile, in Mecca, a fresh attempt 

^ Ibn Ishaq, p. 219-220. Tabari makes no mention of this mission and 
Caetani (i. p. 278) accordingly suggests that it is a later invention. 


was made to induce the Prophet to abandon his work of 
preaching by promises of wealth and honour, but in vain. 

While the result of the embassy to Abyssinia was being 
looked for in Mecca with the greatest expectancy, there 
occurred the conversion of a man, who before had been 
one of the most bitter enemies of Muhammad, and had 
opposed him with the utmost persistence and fanaticism — 
a man whom the Muslims had every reason then to look 
on as their most terrible and virulent enemy, though after- 
wards he shines as one of the noblest figures in the early 
history of Islam, viz. 'Umar b. al-Hhattab. One day, in 
a fit of rage against the Prophet, he set out, sword in hand, 
to slay him. On the way, one of his relatives met him 
and asked him where he was going. " I am looking for 
Muhammad," he answered, " to kill the renegade who has 
brought discord among the Quraysh, called them fools, 
reviled their religion and defamed their gods." " Why 
dost thou not rather punish those of thy own family, and 
set them right ? " " And who are these of my own family ? " 
answered 'Umar. " Thy brother-in-law Sa'id and thy sister 
Fatimah, who have become Muslims and followers of Muham- 
mad." 'Umar at once rushed off to the house of his sister, 
and found her with her husband and Hiabbab, another 
of the followers of Muhammad, who was teaching them to 
recite a chapter of the Qur'an. 'Umar burst into the room : 
" What was that sound I heard ? " "It was nothing," 
they replied. " Nay, but I heard you, and I have learned 
that you have become followers of Muhammad." Where- 
upon he rushed upon Sa'id and struck him. Fatimah 
threw herself between them, to protect her husband, crying, 
" Yes, we are Muslims ; we beheve in God and His Prophet : 
slay us if you will." In the struggle his sister was wounded, 
and when 'Umar saw the blood on her face, he was softened 
and asked to see the paper they had been reading : after 
some hesitation she handed it to him. It contained the 20th 
Surah of the Qur'an. When 'Umar read it, he exclaimed, 
" How beautiful, how sublime it is ! " As he read on, 
conviction suddenly overpowered him and he cried, " Lead 
me to Muhammad that I may tell him of my conversion." ^ 

^ Ibn Ishaq, pp. 225-6. 


The conversion of 'Umar is a turning-point in the history 
of Islam : the Miishms were now able to take up a bolder 
attitude. Muhammad left the house of al-Arqam and the 
believers publicly performed their devotions together 
round the Ka'bah. The situation might thus be expected 
to give the aristocracy of Mecca just cause for apprehension. 
For they had no longer to deal with a band of oppressed 
and despised outcasts, struggling for a weak and miserable 
existence. It was rather a powerful faction, adding daily 
to its strength by the accession of influential citizens and 
endangering the stability of the existing government by 
an alliance with a powerful foreign prince. 

The Quraysh resolved accordingly to make a determined 
effort to check the further growth of the new movement 
in their cit}^ They put the Banii Hashim, who through 
ties of kindred protected the Prophet, under a ban, in 
accordance with which the Quraysh agreed that they would 
not marry their women, nor give their own in marriage to 
them; they would sell nothing to them, nor buy aught 
from them — that dealings with them of every kind should 
cease. For three years the Banii Hashim are said to have 
been confined to one quarter of the city, except during the 
sacred months, in which all war ceased throughout Arabia 
and a truce was made in order that pilgrims might visit 
the sacred Ka'bah, the centre of the national religion. 

Muhammad used to take advantage of such times of 
pilgrimage to preach to the various tribes that flocked to 
Mecca and the adjacent fairs. But with no success, for 
his uncle Abu Lahab used to dog his footsteps, crying with 
a loud voice, "He is an impostor who wants to draw you 
away from the faith of your fathers to the false doctrines 
that he brings, wherefore separate yourselves from him 
and hear him not." They would taunt him with the words : 
" Thine own people and kindred should know thee best : \ 
wherefore do they not believe and follow thee ? " But at 
length the privations endured by Muhammad and his 
kinsmen enlisted the sympathy of a numerous section of 
the Quraysh and the ban was withdrawn. 

In the same 3'ear the loss of Khadljah. the faithful wife 
who for twenty-five years had been his counsellor and 


support, plunged Muhammad into the utmost grief and 
despondency; and a Httle later the death of Abu Talib 
deprived him of his constant and most powerful protector 
and exposed him afresh to insult and contumely. 

Scorned and rejected by his own townsmen, to whom he 
had delivered his message with so Httle success for ten years, 
he resolved to see if there were not others who might be 
more ready to hsten, among whom the seeds of faith might 
find a more receptive and fruitful soil. With this hope he 
set out for Ta'if, a city about seventy miles from Mecca. 
Before an assembly of the chief men of the city, he ex- 
pounded his doctrine of the unity of God and of the mission 
he had received as the Prophet of God to proclaim this 
faith ; at the same time he besought their protection against 
his persecutors in Mecca. The disproportion between his 
high claims (which moreover were unintelligible to the 
heathen people of Ta'if) and his helpless condition only 
excited their ridicule and scorn, and pitilessly stoning him 
with stones they drove him from their city. 

On his return from Ta'if the prospects of the success of 
Muhammad seemed more hopeless than ever, and the 
agony of his soul gave itself utterance in the words that he 
puts into the mouth of Noah : " O my Lord, verily I have 
cried to my people night and day ; and my cry only makes 
them flee from me the more. And verily, so oft as I cry 
to them, that Thou mayest forgive them, they thrust their 
fingers into their ears and wrap themselves in their garments, 
and persist (in their error), and are disdainfully disdainful." 
(Ixxi. 5-6.) 

It was the Prophet's habit at the time of the annual pilgrim- 
age to visit the encampments of the various Arab tribes 
and discourse with them upon rehgion. By some his words 
were treated with indifference, by others rejected with 
scorn. But consolation came to him from an unexpected 
quarter. He met a little group of six or seven persons 
whom he recognised as coming from Medina, or, as it was 
then called, Yathrib. " Of what tribe are you ? " said he, 
addressing them. " We are of the Hiazraj," they answered. 
" Friends of the Jews ? " " Yes." " Then will you not 
sit down awhile, that I may talk with you ? " " Assuredly," 


replied they. Then they sat down with him, and he pro- 
claimed unto them the true God and preached Islam and 
recited to them the Qur'an. Now so it was, in that God 
wrought wonderfully for Islam that there were found in 
their country Jews, who possessed scriptures and wisdom, 
while they themselves were heathen and idolaters. Now 
the Jews ofttimes suffered violence at their hands, and 
when strife was between them had ever said to them, 
" Soon will a Prophet arise and his time is at hand; him 
will we follow, and with him slay you with the slaughter 
of 'Ad and of Iram." When now the apostle of God was 
speaking with these men and calling on them to believe in 
God, they said one to another : " Know surely that this 
is the Prophet, of whom the Jews have warned us; come 
let us now make haste and be the first to join him." So 
they embraced Islam, and said to him, " Our countrymen 
have long been engaged in a most bitter and deadty feud 
with one another; but now perhaps God will unite them 
together through thee and thy teaching. Therefore we 
will preach to them and make known to them this religion, 
that we have received from thee." So, full of faith, they 
returned to their own country.^ 

Such is the traditional account of this event which was 
the turning-point of Muhammad's mission. He had now 
met with a people whose antecedents had in some way 
prepared their minds for the reception of his teaching 
and whose present circumstances, as afterwards appeared, 
were favourable to his cause. 

The city of Yathrib had been long occupied by Jews 
whom some national disaster, possibly the persecution 
under Hadrian, had driven from their own country, when 
a party of wandering emigrants, the two Arab clans of 
Khazraj and Aws, arrived at Yathrib and were admitted 
to a share in the territory. As their numbers increased 
they encroached more and more on the power of the Jewish 
rulers, and finally, towards the end of the fifth century, the 
government of the city passed entirely into their hands. 

Some of the Arabs had embraced the Jewish religion, and 
many of the former masters of the city still dwelt there in 

^ Ibn Ishaq, pp. 2S6-7. 


the service of their conquerors, so that it contained in 
Muhammad's time a considerable Jewish population. The 
people of Yathrib were thus familiar with the idea of a 
Messiah who was to come, and were consequently more 
capable of understanding the claim of Muhammad to be 
accepted as the Prophet of God, than were the idolatrous 
Meccans to whom such an idea was entirely foreign and 
especiall}'- distasteful to the Quraysh, whose supremacy 
over the other tribes and whose worldly prosperity arose 
from the fact that they were the hereditary guardians of 
the national collection of idols kept in the sacred enclosure 
of the Ka'bah. 

Further, the city of Yathrib was distracted by incessant 
civil discord through a long-standing feud between the 
Banii Khazraj and the Banii Aws. The citizens lived in 
uncertainty and suspense, and anything hkely to bind the 
conflicting parties together by a tie of common interest 
could not but prove a boon to the city. Just as the mediaeval 
repubhcs of Northern Italy chose a stranger to hold the 
chief post in their cities in order to maintain some balance 
of power between the rival factions, and prevent, if possible, 
the civil strife which was so ruinous to commerce and the 
general welfare, so the Yathribites would not look upon 
the arrival of a stranger with suspicion, even though he 
was likely to usurp or gain permission to assume the vacant 

On the contrary, one of the reasons for the warm welcome 
which Muhammad received in Medina would seem to be 
that the adoption of Islam appeared to the more thoughtful 
of its citizens to be a remedy for the disorders from which 
their society was suffering, by its orderly disciphne of life 
and its bringing the unruly passions of men under the 
discipline of laws enunciated by an authority superior to 
individual caprice.^ 

These facts go far to explain how eight years after the 
Hijrah Muhammad could, at the head of 10,000 followers, 
enter the city in which he had laboured for ten years with 
so meagre a result. 

But this is anticipating. Muhammad had proposed to 

1 Caetani, vol. i. pp. 334-5. 



accompany his new converts, the Kliazrajites. to Yathrib 
himself, but they dissuaded him therefrom, until a reconcili- 
ation could be effected with the Banu Aws. " Let us, we 
pray thee, return unto our people, if haply the Lord will 
create peace amongst us ; and we will come back again 
unto thee. Let the season of pilgrimage in the following 
year be the appointed time." So they returned to their 
homes, and invited their people to the faith; and many 
believed, so that there remained hardly a family in which 
mention was not made of the Prophet. 

When the time of pilgrimage again came round, a deputa- 
tion from Yathrib, ten men of the Banu Hiazraj, and two 
of the Banii Aws, met him at the appointed spot and 
pledged him their word to obey his teaching. This, the 
first pledge of 'Aqabah, so called from the secret spot at 
which the}^ met, ran as follows : — " We will not worship 
any but the one God; we will not steal, neither will we 
commit adultery or kill our children ; we v>dll abstain from 
calumny and slander; we will obey the Prophet in every 
thing that is right." These twelve men now returned to 
Yathrib as missionaries of Islam, and so well prepared was 
the ground, and with such zeal did they prosecute their 
mission, that the new faith spread rapidly from house to 
house and from tribe to tribe. 

They were accompanied on their return by Mus'ab b. 
'Umayr; though, according to another account he was sent 
by the Prophet upon a written requisition from Yathrib. 
This young man had been one of the earliest converts, and 
had lately returned from Abyssinia ; thus he had had much 
experience, and severe training in the school of persecution 
had not only sobered his zeal but taught him how to meet 
persecution and deal with those who were ready to condemn 
Islam without waiting to learn the true contents of its 
teaching; accordingly Muhammad could with the greatest 
confidence entrust him with the difficult task of directing 
and instructing the new converts, cherishing the seeds of 
religious zeal and devotion that had already been sown and 
bringing them to fruition. Mus'ab took up his abode in 
the house of As'ad b. Zurarah, and gathered the converts 
together for prayer and the reading of the Qur'an, sometimes 


here and sometimes in a house belonging to the Banu 
Zafar, which was situated in a quarter of the town occupied 
jointly by this family and that of 'Abd al-Ashhal. 

The heads of the latter family at that time were Sa'd 
b. Mu'adh and Usayd b. Hudayr. One day it happened 
that Mus'ab was sitting together with As'ad in this house 
of the Banii Zafar, engaged in instructing some new con- 
verts, when Sa'd b. Mu'adh, having come to know of 
their whereabouts, said to Usayd b. Hudayr : " Drive out 
these fellows who have come into our houses to make fools 
of the weaklings among us ; I w^ould spare thee the trouble 
did not the tie of kinship between me and As'ad prevent 
my doing him any harm " (for he himself was the cousin 
of As'ad). Hereupon Usayd took his spear and, bursting 
in upon As'ad and Mus'ab, " What are you doing ? " he 
cried, " leading weak-minded folk astray ? If you value 
your lives, begone hence." " Sit down and listen," Mus'ab 
answered quietly, " if thou art pleased with what thou 
hearest, accept it; if not, then leave it." Usayd stuck his 
spear in the ground and sat down to listen, while Mus'ab 
expounded to him the fundamental doctrines of Islam and 
read several passages of the Qur'an. After a time Usayd, 
enraptured, cried, " What must I do to enter this rehgion ? " 
" Purify thyself with water," answered Mus'ab, " and 
confess that there is no god but God and that Muhammad 
is the apostle of God." Usayd at once complied and 
repeated the profession of faith, adding, " After me you 
have still another man to convince " (referring to Sa'd 
b. Mu'adh). " If he is persuaded, his example will bring 
after him all his people. I will send him to you forthwith." 

With these words he left them, and soon after came 
Sa'd b. Mu'adh himself, hot with anger against As'ad for 
the patronage he had extended to the missionaries of Islam. 
Mus'ab begged him not to condemn the new faith unheard, 
so Sa'd agreed to listen and soon the words of Mus'ab touched 
him and brought conviction to his heart, and he embraced 
the faith and became a Mushm. He went back to his 
people burning with zeal and said to them, " Sons of 'Abd 
al-Ashhal, say, what am I to you ? " " Thou art our lord," 
they answered, " thou art the wisest and most illustrious 


among us." " Then I swear," replied Sa'd, " nevermore 
to speak to any of you until you believe in God and 
Muhammad, His apostle." And from that day, all the 
descendants of 'Abd al-Ashhal embraced Islam. ^ 

With such zeal and earnestness was the preaching of the 
faith pushed forward that within a year there was not a 
family among the Arabs of Medina that had not given some 
of its members to swell the number of the faithful, with 
the exception of one branch of the Banii Aws, which held 
aloof under the influence of Abii Qays b. al-Aslat, the 

The following year, when the time of the annual pilgrimage 
again came round, a band of converts, amounting to 
seventy-three in number, accompanied their heathen 
fellow-countrymen from Yathrib to Mecca. They were 
commissioned to invite Muhammad to take refuge in Yathrib 
from the fury of his enemies, and had come to swear 
allegiance to him as their prophet and their leader. All 
the early converts who had before met the Prophet on the 
two preceding pilgrimages, returned to Mecca on this 
important occasion, and Mus'ab their teacher accompanied 
them. Immediately on his arrival he hurried to the 
prophet, and told him of the success that had attended his 
mission. It is said that his mother, hearing of his arrival, 
sent a message to him, saying : " Ah, disobedient son, wilt 
thou enter a city in which thy mother dwelleth, and not 
first visit her ! " " Nay, verily," he replied, " I will never 
visit the house of any one before the Prophet of God." 
So, after he had greeted and conferred with Muhammad, 
he went to his mother, who thus accosted him : " Then I 
ween thou art still a renegade." He answered, " I follow 
the prophet of the Lord and the true faith of Islam." " Art 
thou then well satisfied with the miserable way thou hast 
fared in the land of Abyssinia and now again at Yathrib ? " 
Now he perceived that she was meditating his imprisonment, 
and exclaimed, " What ! wilt thou force a man from his 
religion ? If ye seek to confine me, I will assuredly slay 
the first person that layeth hands upon me." His mother 
said, " Then depart from my presence," and she began to 

1 Ibn Ishaq, p. 291 sq. 


weep. Mus'ab was moved, and said, " Oh, my mother ! 
I give thee loving counsel. Testify that there is no God 
but the Lord and that Muhammad is His servant and 
messenger." But she rephed, " By the sparkling stars ! 
I will never make a fool of myself by entering into thy 
religion. I wash my hands of thee and thy concerns, and 
cleave steadfastly unto mine own faith." 

In order not to excite suspicion and incur the hostihty 
of the Quraysh, a secret meeting was arranged at 'Aqabah, 
the scene of the former meeting with the converts of the 
year before. Muhammad came accompanied only by his 
uncle 'Abbas, who, though he was still an idolater, had 
been admitted into the secret. 'Abbas opened the solemn 
conclave, b}^ recommending his nephew as a scion of one 
of the noblest famihes of his clan, which had hitherto 
afforded the Prophet protection, although rejecting his 
teachings; but now that he wished to take refuge among 
the people of Yathrib, they should bethink themselves well 
before undertaking such a charge, and resolve not to go 
back from their promise, if once they undertook the risk. 
Then Bara b. Ma'riir, one of the Banii Hiazraj, protesting 
that they were firm in their resolve to protect the Prophet 
of God, besought him to declare fully what he wished of 

Muhammad began b}^ reciting to thom some portions of 
the Qur'an, and exhorted them to be true to the faith they 
had professed in the one God and the Prophet, His apostle ; 
he then asked them to defend him and his companions 
from all assailants just as they would their own wives and 
children. Then Bara b. Ma'rur, taking his hand, cried out, 
" Yea, by Him who sent thee as His Prophet, and through 
thee revealed unto us His truth, we will protect thee as we 
would our own bodies, and we swear allegiance to thee as 
our leader. We are the sons of battle and men of mail, 
which we have inherited as worthy sons of worthy fore- 
fathers." So they all in turn, taking his hand in theirs, 
swore allegiance to him. 

As soon as the Quraysh gained intelligence of these secret 
proceedings, the persecution broke out afresh against the 
Musl'ms, and Muhammad advised them to flee out of the 


city. " Depart unto Yathrib ; for the Lord hath verily 
given you brethren in that city, and a home in which ye 
may find refuge." So quieth", by twos and threes they 
escaped to Yathrib, where the\^ were heartily welcomed, 
their co-religionists in that cit}' vying with one another 
for the honour of entertaining them, and supphing them 
with such things as they had need of. Within two months 
nearly all the Muslims except those who were seized and 
imprisoned and those who could not escape from captivity 
had left Mecca, to the number of about 159. There is a 
stor}' told of one of these i\Iuslims, by name Suhayb, whom 
Muhammad called " the first-fruits of Greece " (he had 
been a Greek slave, and being set free by his master had 
amassed considerable wealth by successful trading) ; when 
he was about to emigrate the Meccans said to him, " Thou 
earnest hither in need and penury; but thy wealth hath 
increased with us, until thou hast reached thy present 
prosperity; and now thou art departing, not thyself only, 
but with all thy property. By the Lord, that shall not be ; " 
and he said, " If I relinquish my property, will ye leave mie 
free to depart ? " And they agreed thereto; so he parted 
with all his goods. And when that was told unto Muham- 
mad, he said, " Verily, Suhaj'b hath made a profitable 

Muhammad delayed his own departure (with the intention, 
no doubt, of withdrawing attention from his faithful 
followers) until a determined plot against his life warned 
him that further dela}' might be fatal, and he made his 
escape by means of a stratagem. 

His first care after his arrival in Yathrib, or Medina as 
it was called from this period — Madinah al-Nabi, the city 
of the Prophet — was to build a mosque, to serve both as 
a place of prayer and of general assembl}^ for his followers, 
who had hitherto met for that purpose in the dwelling-place 
of one of their number. The worshippers at first used to 
turn their faces in the direction of Jerusalem — an arrange- 
ment most probably adopted with the hope of gaining over 
the Jews. In many other ways, by constant appeals to 
their own sacred Scriptures, by according them perfect 
freedom of worship and political equality, Muhammad 


endeavoured to conciliate the Jews, but they met his 
advances with scorn and derision. \\Tien all hopes of 
amalgamation proved fruitless and it became clear that 
the Jews would not accept him as their Prophet, Muhammad 
bade his followers turn their faces in prayer towards the 
Ka'bah in Mecca, (ii. 144.) 1 

This change of direction during prayer has a deeper 
significance than might at first sight appear. It was really 
the beginning of the National Life of Islam : it established 
the Ka'bah at Mecea as a rehgious centre for all the Muslim 
people, just as from time immemorial it had been a place 
of pilgrimage for all the tribes of Arabia. Of similar 
importance was the incorporation of the ancient Arab 
custom of pilgrimage to Mecca into the circle of the rehgious 
ordinances of Islam, a duty that was to be performed by 
every ]\Iuslim at least once in his hfetime. 

There are man}' passages in the Qur'an that appeal to 
this germ of national feeling and urge the people of Arabia 
to reahse the privilege that had been granted them of a 
divine revelation in their own language and by the lips of 
one of their o\mi country-men. 

" Verily We have made it an Arabic Qur'an that ye may 

haply understand, (xliii. 2-3.) 
" And thus We have revealed to thee an Arabic Qur'an, 

that thou ma3'est warn the mother of cities and those 

around it. (xlii. 5.) 
" And if We had made it a Qur'an in a foreign tongue, 

they had surely said, ' Unless its verses be clearly 

explained (we will not receive it).' (xh. 44.) 
" And veril}- We have set before men in this Qur'an every 

kind of parable that haply they be monished : 
" An Arabic Qur'an, free from tortuous (wording), that 

haply the}- ma}- fear (God), (xxxix. 28-29.) 
" Verily from the Lord of all creatures hath this (book) 

come do-sA-n, ... in the clear Arabic tongue, (xxvi. 

192, 195.) 
" And We have only made it (i.e. the Qur'an) easy, in 


The appointment of the fast of Ramadan (Qur'an ii. 179-84), is doubt- 
less another sign of the breaking with the Jews, the fast on the Day of 
Atonement being thus abohshed. 


thine own tongue, in order that thou mayest announce 
glad tidings thereby to the God-fearing, and that 
thou mayest warn the contentious thereby." (xix. 


But the message of Islam was not for Arabia only; the 
whole world was to share in it.^ As there was but one 
God, so there was to be but one religion into which all men 
were to be invited. This claim to be universal, to hold 
sway over all men and all nations, found a practical illus- 
tration in the letters which Muhammad is said to have 
sent in the year a.d. 688 (a.h. 6) to the great potentates 
of that time. An invitation to embrace Islam was sent 
_-> in this year to the Emperor Heraclius, the king of Persia, 
the governor of Yaman, the governor of Egypt and the 
king of Abyssinia. The letter to Heraclius is said to have 
been as follows : — " In the name of God, the Merciful, the 
Compassionate, Muhammad, who is the servant of God and 
His apostle, to Hiraql the Qaysar of Riim. Peace be on 
whoever has gone on the straight road. After this I say. 
Verily I call you to Islam. Embrace Islam, and God will 
reward you twofold. If you turn away from the offer of 
Islam, then on you be the sins of your people. O people 
of the Book, come towards a creed which is fit both for us 
and for you. It is this — to worship none but God, and not 
to associate anything with God, and not to call others God. 
Therefore, ye people of the Book, if ye refuse, beware. 
We are Muslims and our religion is Islam." However 
absurd this summons may have seemed to those who then 
received it, succeeding years showed that it was dictated 
by no empty enthusiasm. ^ These letters only gave a more 
open and widespread expression to the claim to the universal 
acceptance which is repeatedly made for Islam in the 

1 " Aber Gottes Botschaft ist nicht auf die Araber beschrankt. Sein 
Wille gilt fiir alle Creatur, es heischt unbedingten Gehorsam von aller 
Menschheit, und dass Muhammcd als sein Bote denselben Gehorsam zu 
heischen berechtigt und verpflichtet sei, scheint von Anfang an cin inte- 
grirender Bestandtheil seines Gedankensystem gewesen zu sein." (Sachau, 
pp. 293-4.) Goldziher (Vorlesungen fiber den Islam, p. 25 sqq.) and Noldeke 
(WZKM, vol. xxi. pp. 307-8) express a similar opinion. 

* On the doubtful authenticity of these letters, see Caetani, vol. i. 
p. 725 sqq. 


" Of a truth it (i.e. the Qur'an) is no other than an ad- 
monition to all created beings, and after a time shall 
ye surely know its message, (xxxviii. 87-88.) 

" This (book) is no other than an admonition and a clear 
Qur'an, to warn whoever liveth; and that against 
the unbelievers sentence may be justly given, 
(xxxvi. 69-70.) 

" We have not sent thee save as a mercy to all created 
beings, (xxi. 107.) 

" Blessed is He who hath sent down al-Furqan upon 
His servant, that he may be a warner unto all created 
beings, (xxv. i.) 

" And We have not sent thee otherwise than to mankind 
at large, to announce and to warn, (xxxiv. 27.) 

" He it is who hath sent His apostle with guidance and 
the religion of truth, that He may make it victorious 
over every other religion, though the polytheists are 
averse to it." (Ixi. 9.) 

In the hour of his deepest despair, when the people of 
Mecca persistently turned a deaf ear to the words of their 
prophet (xvi, 23, 114, etc.), when the converts he had made 
were tortured until they recanted (xvi. 108), and others were 
forced to flee from the country to escape the rage of their 
persecutors (xvi. 43, iii) — then was dehvered the promise, 
" One day we will raise up a witness out of every nation." 
(xvi. 86.)i 

This claim upon the acceptance of all mankind which the 
Prophet makes in these passages is further prophetically 
indicated in the words " first-fruits of Abyssinia," used by 
Muhammad in reference to Bilal, and " first-fruits of Greece," 
to Suhayb ; Salman, the first Persian convert, was a Christian 
slave in Medina, who embraced the new faith in the first 

^ It seems strange that in the face of these passages, some have denied 
that Islam was originally intended by its founder to be a universal religion. 
Thus Sir William Muir says, " That the heritage of Islam is the world, was 
an afterthought. The idea, spite of much prophetic tradition, had been 
conceived but dimly, if at all, by Mahomet himself. His world was Arabia, 
and for it the new dispensation was ordained. From first to last the 
summons was to Arabs and to none other. . . . The seed of a universal 
creed had indeed been sown ; but that it ever germinated was due to cir- 
cumstance rather than design." (The Cahphate, pp. 43-4.) Caetani is 
the latest exponent of this view. (AnnaH dell' Islam, vol. v. pp. 323 -4.) 


year of the Hijrah. Thus long before any career oi con- 
quest was so much as dreamed of, the Prophet had clearly 
shown that Islam was not to be confined to the Arab race. 
The following account of the sending out of missionaries 
to preach Islam to all nations, points to the same claim to 
be a universal religion : " The Apostle of God said to his 
companions, ' Come to me all of you early in the morning.' 
After the morning prayer he spent some time in praising 
and supplicating God, as was his wont ; then he turned to 
them and sent forth some in one direction and others in 
another, and said : ' Be faithful to God in your dealings 
with His servants (i.e. with men), for whosoever is entrusted 
with any matter that concerns mankind and is not faithful 
in his service of them, to him God shuts the gate of Paradise : 
go forth and be not like the messengers of Jesus, the son of 
Mary, for they went only to those that lived near and 
neglected those that dwelt in far countries.' Then each of 
these messengers came to speak the language of the people 
to whom he was sent. When this was told to the Prophet 
he said, ' This is the greatest of the duties that they owe to 
God with respect to His servants.' " ^ 

The proof of the universality of Islam, of its claim on 
the acceptance of all men, lay in the fact that it was the 
religion divinely appointed for the whole human race and 
was now revealed to them anew through Muhammad, " the 
seal of the prophets " (xxxiii. 40), as it had been to former 
generations by other prophets. 

" Men were of one religion only : then they disagreed one 
with another and had not a decree (of respite) previ- 
ously gone forth from thy Lord, judgment would 
surely have been given between them in the matter 
wherein they disagree, (x. 20.) 
" I am no apostle of new doctrines, (xlvi. 8.) 
" Mankind was but one people : then God raised up 
prophets to announce glad tidings and to warn : and 
He sent down with them the Book with the Truth, 
that it might decide the disputes of men : and none 
disagreed save those to whom the book had been 

^ Ibn Sa'd, § 10. This story may indeed be apocryphal, but is significant 
at least of the early realisation of the missionary character of Islam. 


given, after the clear tokens had reached them, 

through mutual jealousy. And God guided those 

who believed into the truth concerning which they 

had disagreed, by His will; and God guideth whom 

He pleaseth into the straight path. (ii. 209.) 
" And We revealed to thee, ' follow the religion of 

Abraham, the sound in faith, for he was not of those 

who join gods with God.' (xvi. 124.) 
" Say : As for me, my Lord hath guided me into a straight 

path : a true faith, the religion of Abraham, the 

sound in faith; for he was not of those who join gods 

with God. (vi. 162.) 
" Say : Na}^ the religion of Abraham, the sound in faith 

and not one of those who join gods with God (is our 

religion), (ii. 129.) 
" Say : God speaketh truth. Follow therefore the religion 

of Abraham, he being a Hanif and not one of those 

who join other gods with God. 
" Verily the first temple that was set up for men was that 

which is in Bakka, blessed and a guidance for all 

created beings, (iii. 89, 90.) 
" And who hath a better religion than he who resigneth 

himself to God, who doth what is good and followeth 

the faith of Abraham, the sound in faith ? (iv. 124.) 
" He hath elected you, and hath not laid on you any 

hardship in religion, the faith of your father Abraham. 

He hath named 3^ou the Muslims." (xx. 'j']) 

But to return to Muhammad in Medina. In order properly 
to appreciate his position after the Flight, it is important to 
remember the peculiar character of Arab society at that 
time, as far at least as this part of the peninsula was con- 
cerned. There was an entire absence of any organised 
administrative or judicial system such as in modern times 
we connect with the idea of a government. Each tribe 
or clan formed a separate and absolutely independent body, 
and this independence extended itself also to the individual 
members of the tribe, each of whom recognised the authority, 
or leadership of his chief only as being the exponent of 
a public opinion which he himself happened to share ; but 


he was quite at liberty to refuse his conformity to the 
(even) unanimous resolve of his fellow clansmen. Further, 
there was no regular transmission of the office of chieftain ; 
but he was generally chosen as being the oldest member 
of the richest and most powerful family of the clan, and as 
being personally most qualified to command respect. If 
such a tribe became too numerous, it would split up into 
several divisions, each of which continued to enjoy a separate 
and independent existence, uniting only on some extra- 
ordinary occasion for common self-defence or some more 
than usually important warlike expedition. We can thus 
understand how Muhammad could establish himself in 
Medina at the head of a large and increasing body of ad- 
herents who looked up to him as their head and leader and 
acknowledged no other authority, — without exciting any 
feeling of insecurity, or any fear of encroachment on recog- 
nised authority, such as would have arisen in a city of ancient 
Greece or any similarly organised community. Muhammad 
thus exercised temporal authority over his people just as 
any other independent chief might have done, the only 
difference being that in the case of the Muslims a religious 
bond took the place of family and blood ties. 

Islam thus became what, in theory at least, it has always 
remained — a political as well as a religious system. 

" It was Muhammad's desire to found a new religion, and 
in this he succeeded; but at the same time he founded a 
political system of an entirely new and peculiar character. 
At first his only wish was to convert his fellow-countrymen 
to the behef in the One God — Allah; but along with this 
he brought about the overthrow of the old system of govern- 
ment in his native city, and in place of the tribal aristocracy 
under which the conduct of public affairs was shared in 
common by the ruling families, he substituted an absolute 
theocratic monarchy, with himself at the head as vicar 
of God upon earth. 

" Even before his death almost all Arabia had submitted 
to him ; Arabia that had never before obeyed one prince, 
suddenly exhibits a pohtical unity and swears allegiance 
to the will of an absolute ruler. Out of the numerous 
tribes, big and small, of a hundred different kinds that 


were incessantly at feud with one another, Muhammad's 
word created a nation. The idea of a common rehgion 
under one common head bound the different tribes together 
into one poHtical organism which developed its peculiar 
characteristics with surprising rapidity. Now only one 
great idea could have produced this result, viz. the principle 
of national life in heathen Arabia. The clan-system was 
thus for the first time, if not entirely crushed — (that would 
have been impossible) — yet made subordinate to the feeling 
of rehgious unity. The great work succeeded, and when 
Muhammad died there prevailed over by far the greater 
part of Arabia a peace of God such as the Arab tribes, with 
their love of plunder and revenge, had never known; 
it was the religion of Islam that had brought about this 
reconciliation." ^ 

Even in the case of death, the claims of relationship were 
set aside and the bond-brother inherited all the property 
of his deceased companion. But after the battle of Badr, 
when such an artificial bond was no longer needed to unite 
his followers, it was abolished ; such an arrangement was 
only necessary so long as the number of the Muslims was 
still small and the corporate life of Islam a novelty; more- 
over Muhammad had lived in Medina for a very short 
space of time before the rapid increase in the number of 
his adherents made so communistic a sociarLsystem almost 
impracticable. - , 

It was only to be expected that the growth of an inde- 
pendent political body composed of refugees from Mecca, 
located in a hostile city, should eventually lead to an out- 
break of hostilities j^and, as is well known, every biography 
of Muhammad is largely taken up with the account of a 
long series of petty encounters and bloody battles between 
his followers and the Quraysh of Mecca, ending in his 
triumphal entry into that city in a.d. 630, and of his hostile 
relations with numerous other tribes, up to the time of his 
death, a.d. 633. 

To give any account of these campaigns is beyond the 
scope of the present work, but it is important to show that 
Muhammad, when he found himself at the head of a band 

^ A. von Kremer (3), pp. 309, 310. 


of armed followers, was not transformed at once, as some 
would have us believe, from a peaceful preacher into a 
fanatic, sword in hand, forcing his religion on whomsoever 
he could. 1 

It has been frequently asserted by European writers 
that from the date of Muhammad's migration to Medina, 
and from the altered circumstances of his life there, the 
Prophet appears in an entirely new character. He is no 
longer the preacher, the warner, the apostle of God to men, 
whom he would persuade of the truth of the religion re- 
vealed to him, but now he appears rather as the unscrupulous 
bigot, using all means at his disposal of force and statecraft 
to assert himself and his opinions. 

But it is false to suppose that Muhammad in Medina 
laid aside his rble of preacher and missionary of Islam, or 
that when he had a large army at his command, he ceased 
to invite unbelievers to accept the faith. Ibn Sa'd gives 
a number of letters written by the Prophet from Medina 
to chiefs and other members of different Arabian tribes, 
in addition to those addressed to potentates living beyond 
the limits of Arabia, inviting them to embrace Islam ; and 
in the following pages will be found instances of his having 
sent missionaries to preach the faith to the unconverted 
members of their tribes, whose very ill-success in some cases 
is a sign of the genuinely missionary character of their 
efforts and the absence of an appeal to force. A typical 
example of such an unsuccessful mission is that sent to 
preach Islam to the Banii 'Amir b. Sa'sa'ah in the year 
A.H. 4. The chief of this tribe, Abii Bara 'Amir, visited 
Muhammad in Medina, listened to his teaching, but de- 
clined to become a convert ; he seemed, however, to be 
favourably disposed towards the new faith and asked the 
Prophet to send some of his followers to Najd to preach 
to the people of that country. The Prophet sent a party 
of forty Muslims, most of them young men of Medina, who 
were skilled in reciting the Qur'an, and had been accustomed 
to meet together at night for study and prayer. But in 

1 This would seem to be acknowledged even by Muir, when speaking of 
the massacre of the Banii Qurayzah (a.h. 6) : " The ostensible grounds 
upon which Mahomet proceeded were purely political, for as yet he did 
not profess to force men to join Islam, or to punish them for not embracing 
it." (Muir (2), vol. iii. p. 2S2.) 


spite of the safe conduct given them by Abu Bara 'Amir, 
they were treacherously murdered and three only of the 
party escaped with their lives. ^ 

The successes of the Muslim arms, however, attracted 
every day members of various tribes, particularly those in 
the vicinity of Medina, to swell the ranks of the followers 
of the Prophet ; and " the courteous treatment which the 
deputations of these various clans experienced from the 
Prophet, his ready attention to their grievances, the wisdom 
with which he composed their disputes, and the politic 
assignments of territory by which he rewarded an early 
declaration in favour of Islam, made his name to be popular 
and spread his fame as a great and generous prince through- 
out the Peninsula." ^ 

It not unfrequently happened that one member of a tribe 
would come to the Prophet in Medina and return home as 
a missionary of Islam to convert his brethren ; we have 
the following account of such a conversion in the year 5 (a.h.). 

The Banii Sa'd b. Bakr sent one of their number, by 
name Dimam b. Tha'labah as their envoy to the Prophet. 
He came and made his camel kneel down at the gate of the 
mosque and tied up its fore-leg. Then he went into the 
mosque, where the Prophet was sitting with his companions. 
He went up close to them and said, " Which among you 
is the son of 'Abd al-Muttalib ? " "I am," rephed the 
Prophet. " Art thou Muhammad ? " " Yes," was the 
answer. " Then, if thou wilt not take it amiss, I would 
fain ask thee some weighty questions." " Nay, ask what 
thou wilt," answered the Prophet. " I adjure thee by 
Allah, thy God and the God of those who were before thee 
and of those who are to come after thee, hath Allah sent 
thee as a prophet unto us ? " Muhammad answered, " Yea, 
by Allah." He continued, " I adjure thee by Allah, thy 
God and the God of those who were before thee and of those 
who are to come after thee, hath He commanded thee to 

^ Ibn Ishaq, p. 648 sq. 

^ Muir (2), vol. iv. pp. 107-8. See also Caetani, vol. i. p. 663. " Assai 
piu Iche tutte le prediche del Profeta, assai piii che tutta la bonta delle 
dottrine islamiche, siffatti vantaggi militari contribuirono al aumentare 
il numero dei seguaci. La rapidita della diffusione dell' Islam divenne 
in special modo sensibile per il contegno et per lo spirito di tolleranza, di 
liberta, e di opportunismo, che diresse il Profeta nei suoi rapporti con i 


bid us worship Him alone, and to associate naught else 
with Him and to abandon these idols that our fathers 
worshipped ? " Muhammad answered, " Yea, by Allah." 
Then he questioned the Prophet concerning all the ordi- 
nances of Islam, one after another, prayer and fasting, 
pilgrimage, etc., solemnly adjuring him as before. At the 
end he said, " Then I bear witness that there is no God 
save Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the 
Prophet of Allah, and I will observe these ordinances and 
shun what thou hast forbidden, adding nothing thereto, 
and taking nothing away." Then he turned away and 
loosened his camel and returned unto his own people, and 
when he had gathered them together, the first words he 
spoke unto them were : " Vile things are Lat and 'Uzza." 
They cried out, " Hold ! Dimam, take heed of leprosy or 
madness ! " " Fie on you ! " he replied. " By Allah ! 
they can neither work you weal nor woe, for Allah has sent 
a Prophet and revealed to him a book, whereby he delivers 
you from your evil plight ; I bear witness that there is no 
God save Allah alone and that Muhammad is His servant 
and His Prophet ; and I have brought you tidings of what 
he enjoins and what he forbids." The story goes on that 
ere nightfall there was not a man or woman in the camp 
who had not accepted Islam. ^ 

Another such missionary was 'Amr b. Murrah, belonging 
to the tribe of the Banii Juhaynah, who dwelt between Medina 
and the Red Sea. The date of his conversion was prior 
to the Flight, in the same year (a.h. 5), and he thus describes 
it : " We had an idol that we worshipped, and I was the 
guardian of its shrine. When I heard of the Prophet, 
I broke it in pieces and set off to Muhammad, where I 
accepted Islam and bore witness to the truth, and believed 
on what Muhammad declared to be allowed and forbidden. 
And to this my verses refer : ' I bear witness that God is 
Truth and that I am the first to abandon the gods of stones, 
and I have girded up my loins to make my way to you over 
rough ways and smooth, to join myself to him who in himself 
and for his ancestry is the noblest of men, the apostle of 

^ Ibn Ishaq, p. 943-4. (This story rests on somewhat doubtful authority, 
cf. Caetani, vol. i. p. bio.) 


the Lord whose throne is above the clouds.' " He was sent 
by Muhammad to preach Islam to his tribe, and his efforts 
were crowned with such success that there was only one man 
who refused to listen to his exhortations. ^ 

When the truce of Hudaybiyyah (a.h. 6) made friendly 
relations with the people of Mecca possible, many persons 
of that city, who had had the opportunity of listening to 
the teaching of Muhammad in the early days of his mission, 
and among them some men of great influence, came out to 
Medina, to embrace the faith of Islam. 

The continual warfare carried on with the people of Mecca 
had hitherto kept the tribes to the south of that city almost 
entirely outside the influence of the new religion. But 
this truce now made communications with southern Arabia 
possible, and a small band from the tribe of the Banu Daws 
came from the mountains that form the northern boundary 
of Yaman, and joined themselves to the Prophet in Medina. 
Even before the appearance of Muhammad, there were 
some members of this tribe who had had glimmerings of 
a higher religion than the idolatry prevailing around them, 
and argued that the world must have had a creator, though 
they knew not who he was; and when Muhammad came 
forward as the apostle of this creator, one of these men, by 
name Tufayl b. 'Amr, came to Mecca to learn who the 
creator was. 

Though warned by the Quraysh of the dangerous influence 
that Muhammad might exercise over him if he entered into 
conversation with him, he followed the Prophet to his 
house one day, after watching him at prayer by the Ka'bah. 
Muhammad expt)unded to him the doctrines of Islam, and 
Tufayl left Mecca full of zeal for the new faith. On his 
return home he succeeded in converting his father and his 
wife, but found his fellow-tribesmen unwilling to abandon 
their old idolatrous worship. Disheartened at the ill- 
success of his mission, he returned to the Prophet and be- 
sought him to call down the curse of God on the Banu 
Daws; but Muhammad encouraged him to persevere in 
his efforts, saying, " Return to thy people and summon 
them to the faith, but deal gently with them." At the 

Ibn Sa'd, § 118. 


same time he prayed, " Oh God ! guide the Banii Daws in 
the right way." The success of Tufayl's propaganda was 
such that in the 3^ear a.h. 7 he came to Medina with between 
seventy and eighty famihes of his tribesmen who had been 
won over to the faith of Islam, and after the triumphal 
entry of Muhammad into Mecca, Tufayl set fire to the 
block of wood that had hitherto been venerated as the idol 
of the tribe. ^ 

In A.H. 7, fifteen more tribes submitted to the Prophet, 
and after the surrender of Mecca in a.h. 8, the ascendancy 
of Islam was assured, and those Arabs who had held aloof, 
saying, " Let Muhammad and his fellow-tribesmen fight it 
out; if he is victorious, then is he a genuine prophet," ^ 
now hastened to give in their allegiance to the new religion. 
Among those who came in after the fall of Mecca were 
some of the most bitter persecutors of Muhammad in the 
earlier days of his mission, to whom his noble forbearance 
and forgiveness now gave a place in the brotherhood of 
Islam. The following year witnessed the martyrdom of 
'Urwah b. Mas'iid, one of the chiefs of the people of Ta'if, 
which city the Muslims had unsuccessfully attempted to 
capture. He had been absent at that time in Yaman, and 
returned from his journey shortly after the raising of the 
siege. He had met the Prophet two years before at 
Hudaybiyyah, and had conceived a profound veneration for 
him, and now came to Medina to embrace the new faith. 
In the ardour of his zeal he offered to go to Ta'if to convert 
his fellow-countr3nTien, and in spite of the efforts of Mu- 
hammad to dissuade him from so dangerous an undertaking, 
he returned to his native city, publicly declared that he had 
renounced idolatry, and called upon the people to follow 
his example. While he was preaching, he was mortally 
wounded by an arrow, and died giving thanks to God for 
having granted him the glory of martyrdom. A more 
successful missionary effort was made by another follower 
of the Prophet in Yaman — probably a year later — of which 
we have the following graphic account : " The apostle of 
God wrote to al-Harith and Masruh, and Nu'aym b. 
'Abd al-Kulal of Himyar : ' Peace be upon you so long as 
1 ibn Isl;iacj, pp. 252-4. * Caetani, vol. ii. t. i. p. 341. 


ye believe on God and His apostle. God is one God, there 
is no partner with Him. He sent Moses with his signs, 
and created Jesus with his words. The Jews sa3^ " Ezra 
is the Son of God," and the Christians say, " God is one 
of three, and Jesus is the Son of God." ' He sent the letter 
by 'Ayyash b. Abi Rabi'ah al-MaldiziimT, and said : 
* When you reach their city, go not in by night, but wait 
until the morning; then carefully perform your ablutions, 
and pray with two prostrations, and ask God to bless you 
with success and a friendly reception, and to keep j^ou safe 
from harm. Then take my letter in your right hand, and 
deliver it with your right hand into their right hands, and 
they will receive it. And recite to them, " The unbelievers 
among the people of the Book and the polytheists did not 
waver," etc. (Siirah 98), to the end of the Surah; when you 
have finished, say, " Muhammad has believed, and I am the 
first to beheve." And you will be able to meet every 
objection they bring against you, and every glittering book 
that they recite to you will lose its light. And when they 
speak in a foreign tongue, say, " Translate it," and say to 
them, " God is sufficient for me ; I believe in the Book sent 
down by Him, and I am commanded to do justice among 
you ; God is our Lord and your Lord ; to us belong our works, 
and to you belong your works ; there is no strife between 
us and you; God will unite us, and unto Him we must 
return." If they now accept Islam, then ask them for 
their three rods, before which they gather together to pray, 
one rod of tamarisk that is spotted white and yellow, and 
one knotted like a cane, and one black like ebony. Bring 
the rods out and burn them in the market-place.' So I 
set out," tells 'Ayyash, " to do as the Apostle of God had 
bid me. When I arrived, I found that all the people had 
decked themselves out for a festival : I walked on to see 
them, and came at last to three enormous curtains hung in 
front of three doorways. I lifted the curtain and entered the 
middle door, and found people collected in the courtyard of 
the building. I introduced myself to them as the messenger 
of the Apostle of God, and did as he had bidden me ; and they 
gave heed to my words, and it fell out as he had said." ^ 

* Ibn Sa'd, § 56, 


In A.H. 9 a deputation of thirteen men from the Banu 
Kilab, a branch of the Banii 'Amir b. Sa'sa'ah, came to 
the Prophet and informed him that one of his followers, 
Dahhak b. Sufyan, had come to them, reciting the Qur'an 
and teaching the doctrines of Islam, and that his preaching 
had won over their tribe to the new faith. ^ Another 
branch of the same tribe, the Banu Ru'as b. Kilab, was 
converted by one of its members, named 'Amr b, Malik, 
who had been to Medina and accepted Islam, and then 
returned to his fellow tribes and persuaded them to follow 
his example. 2 

In the same ^^ear a less successful attempt was made by 
a new convert, Wathilah b. al-Asqa', to induce his clan 
to accept the faith that he himself had embraced after an 
interview with the Prophet. His father scornfully cast 
him off, saying, " By God ! I will never speak a word to 
you again," and none were found willing to believe the 
doctrines he preached with the exception of his sister, who 
provided him with the means of returning to the Prophet at 
Medina.^ This ninth year of the Hijrah has been called the 
year of the deputations, because of the enormous number 
of Arab tribes and cities that now sent delegates to the 
Prophet, to give in their submission. The introduction 
into Arab society of a new principle of social union in the 
brotherhood of Islam had already begun to weaken the bind- 
ing force of the old tribal ideal, which erected the fabric of 
society on the basis of blood-relationship. The conversion 
of an individual and his reception into the new society was 
a breach of one of the most fundamental laws of Arab life, 
and its frequent occurrence had acted as a powerful solvent 
on tribal organisation and had left it weak in the face of 
a national life so enthusiastic and firmly-knit as that of 
the Muslims had become. The Arab tribes were thus 
impelled to give in their submission to the Prophet, not 
merely as the head of the strongest military force in Arabia, 
but as the exponent of a theory of social life that was making 
all others weak and ineffective.^ Muhammad had succeeded 
in introducing into the anarchical society of his time a 

» Jbn Sa'd, § 85. * Id. § 86. » Id. § 91. 

* See Sprenger, vol. iii. pp. 360-1, 


sentiment of national unity, a consciousness of rights and 
duties towards one another such as the Arabs had not felt 
before. 1 In this way, Islam was uniting together clans that 
hitherto had been continually at feud with one another, and 
as this great confederac}' grew, it more and more attracted 
to itself the weaker among the tribes of Arabia. In the 
accounts of the conversion of the Arab tribes, there is 
continual mention of the promise of security against their 
enemies, made to them by the Prophet on the occasion 
of their submission. " Woe is me for Muhammad ! " was 
the cry of one of the Arab tribes on the news of the death 
of the Prophet. " So long as he was alive, I lived in peace 
and in safety from my enemies; " and the cry must have 
found an echo far and wide throughout Arabia. 

How superficial was the adherence of numbers of the 
Arab tribes to the faith ^of Islam may be judged from 
the widespread apostasy that followed immediately on the 
death of the Prophet. Their acceptance of Islam would 
seem to have been often dictated more by considerations 
of political expediency, and was more frequently a bargain 
struck under pressure of violence than the outcome of any 
enthusiasm or spiritual awakening. They allowed them- 
selves to be swept into the stream of what had now become 
a great national movement, and we miss the fervent zeal 
of the early converts in the cool, calculating attitude of 
those who came in after the fall of Mecca, But even from 
among these must have come many to swell the ranks of 
the true believers animated with a genuine zeal for the 
faith, and ready, as we have seen, to give their lives in the 
effort to preach it to their brethren. 

" These men were the true moral heirs of the Prophet, 
the future apostles of Islam, the faithful trustees of all that 
Muhammad had revealed unto the men of God. Into these 
men, through their constant contact with the Prophet and 
their devotion to him, there had really entered a new mode 
of thought and feeling, loftier and more civihsed than any 
they had known before; they had really changed for the 
better from every point of view, and later on as statesmen 
and generals, in the most difficult moments of the war of 

* Caetaui, vol. ii. p. 433. 


conquest they gave magnificent and undeniable proof that 
the ideas and the doctrines of Muhammad had been seed 
cast on fruitful soil, and had produced a body of men of 
the very highest worth. They were the depositaries of the 
sacred text of the Qur'an, which they alone knew by heart ; 
they were the jealous guardians of the memory of every 
word and bidding of the Prophet, the trustees of the moral 
heritage of Muhammad. These men formed the venerable 
stock of Islam from whom one day was to spring the noble 
band of the first jurists, theologians and traditionists of 
Muslim society." ^ 

But for such men as these, so vast a movement could not 
have held together, much less have recovered the shock 
given it by the death of the founder. For it must not be 
forgotten how distinctly Islam was a new movement in 
heathen Arabia, and how diametrically opposed were the 
ideals of the two societies. ^ For the introduction of Islam 
into Arab society did not imply merely the sweeping away 
of a few barbarous and inhuman practices, but a complete 
reversal of the pre-existing ideals of life. 

Herein we have the most conclusive proof of the essentially 
missionary character of the teaching of Muhammad, who 
thus comes forward as the exponent of a new scheme of faith 
and practice. Whatever may have been the conditions 
favourable to the formation of a new political organisation, 
Muhammad certainly did not find the society of his day 
prepared to receive his rehgious teaching and waiting only 
for the voice that would express in speech the inarticulate 
yearnings of their hearts. But it is just this spirit of 
exnectancy that is wanting among the Arabs — those at 
leL^L of the Central Arabia towards whom Muhammad's 
efforts were at first directed. They were by no means 
ready to receive the preaching of a new teacher, least of all 
one who came with the (to them unintelligible) title of 
apostle of God, 

Again, the equahty in Islam of all believers and the 
common bro.'aerhood of all Muslims, which suffered no 

^ Caetani, vol. ii. p. 429. 

* This has been nowhere more fully and excellently brought out than in 
the scholarly work of Prof. Ignaz Goldziher (Muhammedanische Studien, 
vol. i.), from which I have derived the following considerations. 


distinctions between Arab and non-Arab, between free and 
slave, to exist among the faithful, was an idea that ran 
directly counter to the proud clan-feeling of the Arab, who 
grounded his claims to personal consideration on the fame 
of his ancestors, and in the strength of the same carried 
on the endless blood-feuds in which his soul dehghted. 
Indeed, the fundamental principles in the teaching of 
Muhammad were a protest against much that the Arabs 
had hitherto most highly valued, and the newlj^-converted 
Muslim was taught to consider as virtues, qualities which 
hitherto he had looked down upon with contempt. 

To the heathen Arab, friendship and hostility were as a 
loan which he sought to repay with interest, and he prided 
himself on returning evil for evil, and looked down on any 
who acted otherwise as a weak nidering. 

He is the perfect man who late and early plotteth still 
To do a kindness to his friends and work his foes some ill. 

To such men the Prophet said, " Recompense evil with 
that which is better " (xxiii. 98) ; as they desired the forgive- 
ness of God, they were to pass over and pardon offences 
(xxiv. 22), and a Paradise, vast as the heavens and the 
earth, was prepared for those who mastered their anger 
and forgave others, (iii. 128.) 

The ver}^ institution of prayer was jeered at by the Arabs 
to whom Muhammad first delivered his message, and one 
of the hardest parts of his task was to induce in them that 
pious attitude of mind towards the Creator, which Islam 
inculcates equally with Judaism and Christianity, but which 
was practically unknown to the heathen Arabs. This 
self-sufficiency and this lack of the religious spirit, joined 
with their intense pride of race, little fitted them to receive 
the teachings of one who maintained that " The most 
worthy of honour in the sight of God is he that feareth 
Him most " (xlix. 13). No more could they brook the 
restrictions that Islam sought to lay upon the licence of 
their lives ; wine, women, and song, were among the things 
most dear to the Arab's heart in the days of the ignorance, 
and the Prophet was stern and severe in his injunctions 
respecting each of them. 


Thus, from the very beginning, Islam bears the stamp of 
a missionary rehgion that seeks to win the hearts of men, 
to convert them and persuade them to enter the brotherhood 
of the faithful; and as it was in the beginning, so has it 
continued to be up to the present day, as will be the object 
of the following pages to show. 



After the death of Muhammad, the army he had intended 
for Syria was despatched thither by Abu Bakr, in spite of 
the protestations made by certain Mushms in view of the 
then disturbed state of Arabia. He silenced their expostu- 
lations with the words : "I will not revoke any order given 
by the Prophet. Medina may become the prey of wild 
beasts, but the army must carry out the wishes of Muham- 
mad." This was the first of that wonderful series of 
campaigns in which the Arabs overran Syria, Persia and 
Northern Africa — overturning the ancient kingdom of 
Persia and despoiling the Roman Empire of some of its 
fairest provinces. It does not fall within the scope of this 
work to follow the history of these different campaigns, 
but, in view of the expansion of the Muslim faith that 
followed the Arab conquests, it is of importance to discover 
what were the circumstances that made such an expansion 

A great historian ^ has well put the problem that meets 
us here, in the following words : " Was it genuine religious 
enthusiasm, the new strength of a faith now for the first 
time blossoming forth in all its purity, that gave the victory 
in every battle to the arms of the Arabs and in so incredibly 
short a time founded the greatest empire the world had 
ever seen ? But evidence is wanting to prove that this 
was the case. The number was far too small of those who 
had given their allegiance to the Prophet and his teaching 
with a free and heartfelt conviction, while on the other 
hand all the greater was the number of those who had been 

^ DoUinger, pp. 5-6. 


brought into the ranks of the Muhammadans only through 
pressure from without or by the hope of worldly gain. 
Wialid, ' that sword of the swords of God,' exhibited in a 
very striking manner that mixture of force and persuasion 
whereby he and many of the Quraysh had been converted, 
when he said that God had seized them by the hearts and 
by the hair and compelled them to follow the Prophet. 
The proud feeling too of a common nationality had much 
influence — a feeling which was more alive among the Arabs 
of that time than (perhaps) among any other people, and 
which alone determined many thousands to give the prefer- 
ence to their countryman and his religion before foreign 
teachers. Still more powerful was the attraction offered by 
the sure prospect of gaining booty in abundance, in fighting 
for the new religion and of exchanging their bare, stony 
deserts, which offered them only a miserable subsistence, 
for the fruitful and luxuriant countries of Persia, Syria and 

These stupendous conquests which laid the foundations 
of the Arab empire, were certainly not the outcome of a 
holy war, waged for the propagation of Islam, but they 
were followed by such a vast defection from the Christian 
faith that this result has often been supposed to have been 
their aim. Thus the sword came to be looked upon by 
Christian historians as the instrument of Muslim propa- 
ganda, and in the light of the success attributed to it the 
evidences of the genuine missionary activity of Islam were 
obscured. But the spirit which animated the invading hosts 
of Arabs who poured over the confines of the Byzantine and 
Persian empires, was no prosel37tising zeal for the conversion 
of souls. On the contrary, religious interests appear to 
have entered but little into the consciousness of the pro- 
tagonists of the Arab armies. ^ This expansion of the Arab 
race is more rightly envisaged as the migration of a vigorous 
and energetic people driven by hunger and want, to leave 
their inhospitable deserts and overrun the richer lands 
of their more fortunate neighbours. ^ Still the unifying 

^ Cactani, Studi di Storia Orientale, I, p. 365 sqq. (Milano, 191 1.) 

* This interpretation of the Arab conquests as the last of the great Semitic 

migrations has been worked out in a masterly manner by Caetani, vol. ii. 

pp. 831-61. 


principle of the movement was the theocracy estabhshed in 
Medina, and the organisation of the new state proceeded 
from the devoted companions of Muhammad, the faithful 
depositaries of his teaching, whose moral weight and en- 
thusiasm kept Islam ahve as the official religion, despite the 
indifference of those Arabs who gave to it a mere nominal 
adherence.! It is not, therefore, in the annals of the conquer- 
ing armies that we must look for the reasons which lead to 
the so rapid spread of the Mushm faith, but rather in the 
conditions prevailing among the conquered peoples. 

The national character of this ethnic movement of migra- 
tion naturally attracted to the invading Arab hosts the 
outlying representatives of the Arab race through whom 
the path of the conquering armies lay. Accordingly it 
is not surprising to find that many of the Christian 
Bedouins were swept into the rushing tide of this great 
movement and that Arab tribes, who for centuries had 
professed the Christian religion, now abandoned it to em- 
brace the Muslim faith. Among these was the tribe of 
the Banii Ghassan, who held sway over the desert east of 
Palestine and southern Syria, of whom it was said that they 
were " Lords in the days of the ignorance and stars in 
Islam." 2 After the battle of Qadisiyyah (a.h. 14) in which 
the Persian army under Rustam had been utterly discomfited, 
many Christians belonging to the Bedouin tribes on both 
sides of the Euphrates came to the Mushm general and 
said : " The tribes that at the first embraced Islam were 
wiser than we. Now that Rustam hath been slain, we will 
accept the new belief." ^ Similarly, after the conquest of 
northern Syria, most of the Bedouin tribes, after hesitating 
a httle, joined themselves to the followers of the Prophet.* 

That force was not the determining factor in these 
conversions may be judged from the amicable relations 
that existed between the Christian and the Mushm Arabs. 
Muhammad himself had entered into treaty with several 

^ Caetani, vol. ii. p. 455; vol. v. p. 521. (" In Madlnah si formo un 
considerevole nucleo religioso, composto d'elementi eterogenei, ma forse 
in maggioranza madinesi, i quali presero I'lslam molto sul serio e cercarono 
sinceramente di osservare la nuova dottrina, per la convinzione che, cosi 
agendo facevan bene, ed in devoto omaggio alia volonta del Profeta.") 

" Mas'udi, tome iv. p. 238. ^ Muir's Caliphate, pp. 12 1-2. 

* Caetani, vol. iii. p. 814 (§ 323). 


Christian tribes, promising them his protection and guaran- 
teeing them the free exercise of their rehgion and to their 
clergy undisturbed enjoyment of their old rights and author- 
ity. ^ A similar bond of friendship united his followers with 
their fellow-countrymen of the older faith, many of whom 
voluntarily came forward to assist the Muslims in their 
military expeditions in the same spirit of loyalty to the new 
government as had caused them to hold aloof from the great 
apostasy that raised the standard of revolt throughout 
Arabia immediately after the death of the Prophet. ^ It 
has been suggested that the Christian Arabs who guarded 
the frontier of the Byzantine empire bordering on the 
desert threw in their lot with the invading Muslim army, 
when Heraclius refused any longer to pay them their accus- 
tomed subsidy for mihtary service as wardens of the 
marches. 3 

In the battle of the Bridge (a.h. 13) when a disastrous 
defeat was imminent and the panic-stricken Arabs were 
hemmed in between the Euphrates and the Persian host, 
a Christian chief of the Banii Tayy sprang forward like 
another Spurius Lartius to the side of an Arab Horatius, to 
assist Muthannah the Muslim general in defending the bridge 
of boats which could alone afford the means of an orderly 
retreat. When fresh levies were raised to retrieve this 
disgrace, among the reinforcements that came pouring in 
from every direction was a Christian tribe of the Banu 
Namir, who dwelt within the limits of the Byzantine empire, 
and in the ensuing battle of Buwayb (a.h. 13), just before 
the final charge of the Arabs that turned the fortune of 
battle in their favour, Muthannah rode up to the Christian 
chief and said : "Ye are of one blood with us ; come now, 
and as I charge, charge ye with me." The Persians fell 
back before their furious onslaught, and another great 
victory was added to the glorious roll of Mushm triumphs. 
One of the most gallant exploits of the day was performed 
by a youth belonging to another Christian tribe of the 
desert, who with his companions, a company of Bedouin 
horse-dealers, had come up just as the Arab army was being 

^ Caetani, vol. ii. pp. 260, 299, 351. 

* Id. pp. 792-3; vol. iii. p. 253 (§ 8). ^ jj. pp. 1112-15. 


drawn up in battle array. They threw themselves into the 
fight on the side of their compatriots ; and while the conflict 
was raging most fiercely, this youth, rushing into the centre 
of the Persians, slew their leader, and leaping on his richly- 
caparisoned horse, galloped back amidst the plaudits of the 
Mushm fine, crying as he passed in triumph : " I am of the 
Banii Ta^^ihb. I am he that hath slain the chief." ^ 

The tribe to which this young man boasted that he be- 
longed was one of those that elected to remain Christian, 
while other tribes of Mesopotamia, such as the Banii 
Namir and the Banii Quda'ah, became Mushm. The 
Banii Taghlib had sent an embassy to the Prophet as 
early as the year a.h. 9. The heathen members of the 
deputation embraced Islam and he made a treaty with the 
Christians according to which they were to retain their old 
faith but were not to baptise their children. A condition 
so entirely at variance with the usual tolerant attitude of 
Muhammad towards the Christian Arabs, who were allowed 
to choose between conversion to Islam and the payment 
of jizyah and never compelled to abandon their faith, has 
given rise to the conjecture that this condition was sug- 
gested by the Christian families of the Banii Ta^hb them- 
selves, out of motives of economy.- The long survival of 
Christianity in this tribe shows that this condition was 
certainly not observed. The caliph 'Umar forbade any 
pressure to be put upon them, when they showed them- 
selves unwilling to abandon their old faith and ordered 
that they should be left undisturbed in the practice of 
it, but that they were not to oppose the conversion of 
any member of their tribe to Islam nor baptise the 
children of such as became Muslims.^ They were called 
upon to pay the jizyah * or tax imposed on the non- 
Muslim subjects, but they felt it to be humiliating to 
their pride to pay a tax that was levied in return for 

^ Muir : Caliphate, pp. 90-4. 

* Caetani, vol. ii. p. 299. Wellhausen, iv. p. 15O {n. 5). 
' Tabari, Prima Series, p. 24S2. 

* For an exhaustive study ot the jizyah, with a masterly array and 
critical examination of all tlie available historical materials, see Caetani, 
vol. V. p. 319 sqq. ; for Egypt during the first century of Mushm rule, see 
Bell, p. 107 sqq., and Becker, Beitrage zur Geschichte Aegyptens unter 
dem Islam, p. bi sqq. 



protection of life and property, and petitioned the caliph 
to be allowed to make the same kind of contribution as the 
Muslims did. So in lieu of the jizyah they paid a double 
Sadaqah or alms/ — which was a poor tax levied on the 
fields and cattle, etc., of the Muslims. ^ It especially irked 
the Muslims that any of the Arabs should remain true to the 
Christian faith. The majority of the Banii Tanujdi had 
become Muslim in the year A.H. 12, when with other Christian 
Arab tribes they submitted to Kialid b. al-Walid,^ but some 
of them appear to have remained true to their old faith for 
nearly a century and a half, since the caliph al-Mahdi (a.h. 
158-169) is said to have seen a number of them who dwelt 
in the neighbourhood of Aleppo, and learning that they 
were Christians, in anger ordered them to accept Islam — 
which they did to the number of 5000, and one of them 
suffered martyrdom rather than apostatise.^ But for the 
most part, details are lacking for any history of the dis- 
appearance of Christianity from among the Christian Arab 
tribes of Northern Arabia; they seem to have become 
absorbed in the surrounding Muslim community by an 
almost insensible process of "peaceful penetration"; had 
attempts been made to convert them by force when they 
first came under Muhammadan rule, it would not have been 
possible for Christians to have survived among them up to 
the times of the 'Abbasid caliphs.^ 

The people of Hirah had likewise resisted all the efforts 
made by IQiahd to induce them to accept the Muslim faith. 
This cit}' was one of the most illustrious in the annals of 
Arabia, and to the mind of the impetuous hero of Islam it 
seemed that an appeal to their Arab blood would be enough 
to induce them to enrol themselves with the followers of 
the Prophet of Arabia. When the besieged citizens sent an 
embassy to the Mushm general to arrange the terms of the 
capitulation of their city, Khalid asked them, " Who are 

^ Caetani (vol. iv. p. 227) believes that this story is the invention of a 
later epoch, to explain the fiscal anomaly of a Christian tribe being treated 
as if it were Muslim. 

* The few meagre notices of tlus tribe in the works of Arabic historians 
have been admirably summarised by Lammens : Le Chantre des Omiades. 
(J. A., ix. ser., tome iv. pp. 97-9, 438-59.) See also Caetani, vol. iv. 
p. 227 sqq. ^ Caetani, vol. ii. p. 1180. 

* Barhebraeus (3), pp. 134-5. * Caetani, vol. ii. p. 828. 


you ? are you Arabs or Persians ? " Then 'Adi, the spokes- 
man of the deputation, rephed, " Nay, we are pure-blooded 
Arabs, while others among us are naturalised Arabs." 
Kh . " Had you been what you say you are, you would 
not have opposed us or hated our cause." 'A. " Our pure 
Arab speech is the proof of what I say." Hi. " You speak 
truly. Now choose you one of these three things : either 
(i) accept our faith, then your rights and obhgations will 
be the same as ours, whether you choose to go into another 
country or stay in your own land; or (2) pay jizyah; or 
(3) war and battle. Verily, by God ! I have come to you 
with a people who are more desirous of death than you are 
of hfe." 'A. " Nay, we will pay you jizyah." M- " IH- 
luck to you ! Unbelief is a pathless desert and foolish is 
the Arab who, when two guides meet him wandering therein 
— the one an Arab and the other not — leaves the first and 
accepts the guidance of the foreigner." ^ 

Due provision was made for the instruction of the new 
converts, for while whole tribes were being converted to the 
faith with such rapidity, it was necessary to take pre- 
cautions against errors, both in respect of creed and ritual, 
such as might naturally be feared in the case of ill-instructed 
converts. Accordingly we find that the caliph 'Umar 
appointed teachers in every country, whose duty it was to 
instruct the people in the teachings of the Qur'an and the 
observances of their new faith. The magistrates were also 
ordered to see that all, whether old or young, were regular 
in their attendance at public prayer, especially on Fridays 
and in the month of Ramadan. The importance attached 
to this work of instructing the new converts may be judged 
from the fact that in the city of Kiifah it was no less a 
personage than the state treasurer who was entrusted with 
this task. 2 

From the examples given above of the toleration extended 
towards the Christian Arabs by the victorious Mushms of 
the first century^ of the Hijrah and continued by succeeding 
generations, we may surely infer that those Christian tribes 
that did embrace Islam, did so of their own choice and free 

^ Tabari, i. p. 2041. 

■^ Mas'udi, tome iv. p. 256. 


will.i The Christian Arabs of the present day, dwelhng in 
the midst of a Muhammadan population, are a hving testi- 
mony of this toleration; Layard speaks of having come 
across an encampment of Christian Arabs at al-Karak, to 
the east of the Dead Sea, who differed in no wa}^ either in 
dress or in manners, from the Muslim Arabs. ^ Burckhardt 
was told by the monks of Mount Sinai that in the last 
century there still remained several families of Christian 
Bedouins who had not embraced Islam, and that the last 
of them, an old woman, died in 1750, and was buried in the 
garden of the convent.^ 

Many of the Arabs of the renowned tribe of the Banii 
Gbassan, Arabs of the purest blood, who embraced Christi- 
anity towards the end of the fourth century, still retain the 
Christian faith, and since their submission to the Church of 
Rome, about two centuries ago, employ the Arabic language 
in their religious services.'* 

If we turn from the Bedouins to consider the attitude of 
the settled inhabitants of the towns and the non-Arab 
population towards the new religion, we do not find that 
the Arab conquest was so rapidly followed by conversions 
to Islam. The Christians of the great cities of the eastern 
provinces of the Byzantine empire seem for the most part 
to have remained faithful to their ancestral creed, to which 
indeed they still in large numbers cling. 

In order that we may fully appreciate their condition 
under the Mushm rule, and estimate the influences that led 
to occasional conversions, it will be well briefl}/ to sketch 
their situation under the Christian rule of the Byzantine 
empire which fell back before the Arab arms. 

A hundred years before, Justinian had succeeded in 
giving some show of unity to the Roman Empire, but after 

^ " Gli Arabi nei primi anni non perseguitarono invece alcuno per ragioni 
di fede, non si diedero pena alcuna per convertire chicchessia, sicche sotto 
rislam, dopo le prime conquiste, i cristiani Semiti goderno d'una toUeranza 
religiosa quale non si era mai vista da varie generazioni." (Caetani, 
vol. V. p. 4.) 

* Sir Henry Layard : Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana and Baby- 
lonia, vol. i. p. 100. (London, 1887) ; R. Hartmann : Die Herrschaft von 
al-Karak. (Der Islam, vol. ii. p. 137.) 

* Burckhardt (2), p. 564. 

* W. G. Palgrave: EssaysonEasternQuestions, pp. 206-8. (London, 1872.) 


his death it rapidly fell asunder, and at this time there was 
an entire want of common national feeling between the 
provinces and the seat of government. Heraclius had made 
some partially successful efforts to attach Syria again to the 
central government, but unfortunately the general methods 
of reconciliation which he adopted had served only to in- 
crease dissension instead of allaying it. Rehgious passions 
were the only existing substitute for national feeling, and he 
tried, by propounding an exposition of faith, that was 
intended to serve as an eirenicon, to stop all further disputes 
between the contending factions and unite the heretics to 
the Orthodox Church and to the central government. The 
Council of Chalcedon (451) had maintained that Christ was 
" to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, 
change, division, or separation ; the difference of the natures 
being in nowise taken away by reason of their union, but 
rather the properties of each nature being preserved, and 
concurring into one person and one substance, not as it were 
divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same 
Son and only begotten, God the Word." This council was 
rejected by the Monophysites, who only allowed one nature 
in the person of Christ, who was said to be a composite 
person, having all attributes divine and human, but the 
substance bearing these attributes was no longer a duality, 
but a composite unity. The controversy between the 
orthodox party and the Monophysites, who flourished 
particularly in Egypt and Syria and in countries outside 
the Byzantine empire, had been hotly contested for nearly 
two centuries, when Heraclius sought to effect a reconcilia- 
tion by means of the doctrine of Monotheletism : while 
conceding the duality of the natures, it secured unity of the 
person in the actual life of Christ, by the rejection of two 
series of activities in this one person; the one Christ and 
Son of God effectuates that which is human and that which 
is divine by one divine human agency, i. e. there is only 
one will in the Incarnate Word.^ 

But Heraclius shared the fate of so many would-be 

^ I. A. Dorner : A System of Christian Doctrine, vol. iii. pp. 215-16. 
(London, 1885.) J. C. Robertson: History of the Christian Church, vol. 
ii. p. 226. (i^ondon, 1S75.) 


peace-makers : for not onl}^ did the controversy blaze up 
again all the more fiercely, but he himself was stigmatised 
as a heretic and drew upoa himself the wrath of both parties. 

Indeed, so bitter was the feeling he aroused that there is 
strong reason to believe that even a majorit}^ of the orthodox 
subjects of the Roman Empire, in the provinces that were 
conquered during this emperor's reign, were the well-wishers 
of the Arabs ; they regarded the emperor with aversion as a 
heretic, and were afraid that he might commence a perse- 
cution in order to force upon them his Monotheletic opinions.^ 
They therefore readily — and even eagerly — received the new 
masters who promised them religious toleration, and were 
willing to compromise their religious position and their 
national independence if only they could free themselves 
from the immediately impending danger. 

Michael the Elder, Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, writing 
in the latter half of the twelfth century, could approve the 
decision of his co-religionists and see the finger of God in 
the Arab conquests even after the Eastern churches had 
had experience of five centuries of Muhammadan rule. 
After recounting the persecutions of Heraclius, he writes : 
" This is why the God of vengeance, who alone is all- 
powerful, and changes the empire of mortals as He will, 
giving it to whomsoever He will, and uplifting the humble 
 — beholding the wickedness of the Romans who, throughout 
their dominions, cruelly plundered our churches and our 
monasteries and condemned us without pity — brought from 
the region of the south the sons of Ishmael, to deliver us 
through them from the hands of the Romans. And, if in 
truth, we have suffered some loss, because the catholic 
churches, that had been taken away from us and given 
to the Chalcedonians, remained in their possession; for 
when the cities submitted to the Arabs, they assigned to 
each denomination the churches which they found it to be 
in possession of (and at that time the great church of Emessa 

* That such fears were not wholly Rroundlesn may be judged from the 
emperor's intolerant behaviour towards man}' of the Monophysite party 
in his progress through Syria after the defeat of the Persians in 627. (See 
Michael the Elder, vol. ii. p. 412, and Caetani, vol. ii. p. 1049.) 
For the outrages committed by the Byzantine soldiers on their co- 
religionists in the reign of Constans II (642-668), see Michael the Elder, 
vol. ii, p. 443. 


and that of Harran had been taken away from us) ; never- 
theless it was no shght advantage for us to be dehvered from 
the cruelty of the Romans, their wickedness, their wrath 
and cruel zeal against us, and to find ourselves at peace." ^ 

When the Muslim army reached the valley of the Jordan 
and Abu 'Ubaydah pitched his camp at Fihl, the Christian 
inhabitants of the country wrote to the Arabs, saying : " O 
Mushms, we prefer you to the Byzantines, though they are 
of our own faith, because you keep better faith with us and are 
more merciful to us and refrain from doing us injustice and 
your rule over us is better than theirs, for they have robbed 
us of our goods and our homes." 2 The people of Emessa 
closed the gates of their city against the army of Heraclius 
and told the Mushms that they preferred their government 
and justice to the injustice and oppression of the Greeks. ^ 

Such was the state of feeling in Syria during the campaign 
of 633-639 in which the Arabs gradually drove the Roman 
army out of the province. And when Damascus, in 637, 
set the example of making terms with the Arabs, and thus 
secured immunity from plunder and other favourable con- 
ditions, the rest of the cities of Syria were not slow to follow. 
Emessa, Arethusa, Hieropolis and other towns entered into 
treaties whereby they became tributar}' to the Arabs. Even 
the patriarch of Jerusalem surrendered the city on similar 
terms. The fear of religious compulsion on the part of the 
heretical emperor made the promise of Muslim toleration 
appear more attractive than the connection with the Roman 
Empire and a Christian government, and after the first terrors 
caused b}^ the passage of an invading army, there succeeded 
a profound revulsion of feeling in favour of the Arab 

^ Michael the Elder, vol. ii. pp. 412-13. Barhebraeus, about a century 
later, wrote in a similar strain. (Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, ed. J. B. 
Abbeloos et Lamy, p. 474.) 

2 Azdl, p. 97. 3 Baladhuri, p. 137. 

* Caetani, vol. iii. p. 813; vol. v. p. 394. (" Gli abitanti accettarono 
con non celato favore il mutamento di governo, appena ebbero compreso 
che gli Arabi avrebbero rispettato i loro diritti individuali, ed avrebbero 
lasciata completa liberta di coscienza in materia religiosa. In Siria, citta 
ed interi distretti si affrettarono a trattare con gli Arabi anche prima della 
rotta finale dei Greci. Nel Sawad si lasciarono passivamente sopraffare 
accettando il nuovo dominio senza pattuire condizioni di sorta ; e probabile 
che anche in Siria questo fosse il caso p^r molte regioni remote dalle grandi 
vie di comunicazioni.") 


For the provinces of the Byzantine empire that were 
rapidly acquired by the prowess of the MusHms found them- 
selves in the enjoyment of a toleration such as, on account 
of their Monophysite and Nestorian opinions, had been 
unknown to them for many centuries. They were allowed 
the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion with some 
few restrictions imposed for the sake of preventing any 
friction between the adherents of the rival religions, or 
arousing any fanaticism by the ostentatious exhibition of 
religious symbols that were so offensive to Muslim feeling. ^ 
The extent of this toleration — so striking in the history of 
the seventh century — may be judged from the terms granted 
to the conquered cities, in which protection of life and 
property and toleration of religious belief were given in 
return for submission and the pajmient of jizyah.^ 

The exact details of these agreements cannot easily be 
disentangled from the accretions with which they have 
become overlaid, but whether verbally authentic or not, 
they are significant as representing the historic tradition 
accepted by the Muslim historians of the second century of 
the Hijrah — a tradition that could hardly have become 
established had there been extant evidence to the contrary. 
As an example of such an agreement, the conditions ^ may 
be quoted that are stated to have been drawn up when 
Jerusalem submitted to the caliph 'Umar b. al-KIiattab : 
" In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate ! 
This is the security which 'Umar, the servant of God, the 
commander of the faithful, grants to the people of ^Elia. 
He grants to all, whether sick or sound, security for their 
lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses, and 
for all that concerns their religion. Their churches shall not 
be changed into dwelling places, nor destroyed, neither shall 
they nor their appurtenances be in any wa}^ diminished, nor 
the crosses of the inhabitants nor aught of their possessions, 
nor shall any constraint be put upon them in the matter of 
their faith, nor shall any one of them be harmed." ^ 

^ Gottheil has brought together a valuable collection of documentary 
evidence as to the condition of the protected peoples under Muslim rule 
in his " Dhimmis and Moslems in Egypt." 

2 Baladhuri, pp. 74 (ad fin.), 116, 121 [med.). 

^ For a discussion of this document, see Caetani, vol. iii. p. 952 sqq. 

* Tatari, i. p. 2405. 


Tribute was imposed upon them of five dinars for the 
rich, four for the middle class and three for the poor. In 
company with the Patriarch, 'Umar visited the holy places, 
and it is said while they were in the Church of the Resur- 
rection, as it was the appointed hour of prayer, the Patriarch 
bade the caliph offer his prayers there, but he thoughtfully 
refused, saying that if he were to do so, his followers might 
afterwards claim it as a place of Muslim worship. 

It is in harmony with the same spirit of kindly considera- 
tion for his subjects of another faith, that 'Umar is recorded 
to have ordered an allowance of money and food to be made 
to some Christian lepers, apparently out of the public funds. ^ 
Even in his last testament, in which he enjoins on his suc- 
cessor the duties of his high office, he remembers the dhimmis 
(or protected persons of other faiths) : " I commend to his 
care the dhimmis, who enjoy the protection of God and of 
the Prophet ; let him see to it that the covenant with them is 
kept, and that no greater burdens than the}^ can bear are 
laid upon them." " 

A later generation attributed to 'Umar a number of 
restrictive regulations which hampered the Christians in 
the free exercise of their religion, but De Goeje ^ and Caetani ^ 
have proved without doubt that they are the invention of 
a later age ; as, however, Muslim theologians of less tolerant 
periods accepted these ordinances as genuine, they are ot 
importance for forming a judgment as to the condition of 
the Christian Churches under Muslim rule. This so-called 
ordinance of 'Umar runs as follows : — " In the name of 
God, the Merciful, the Compassionate ! This is a writing 
to 'Umar b. al-Khattab from the Christians of such 
and such a city. When you marched against us, we 
asked of you protection for ourselves, our posterity, our 
possessions and our co-religionists ; and we made this 
stipulation with you, that we will not erect in our city or 
the suburbs any new monastery, church, cell or hermitage ; ^ 

^ Baladhuri. p. 129. ^ Ibn S'ad, III, i. p. 246. 

* M6moire sur la conquSte de la Syrie, p. 143 sq. 

* Annali dell' Islam, vol. iii. p. 957. 

* Some authorities on Muhammadan law held that this rule did not 
extend to villages and hamlets, in which the construction of churches was 
not to be prevented. (Hidayah, vol. ii. p. 219.) 


that we will not repair any of such buildings that may fall 
into ruins, or renew those that may be situated in the Muslim 
quarters of the town; that we will not refuse the Muslims 
entry into our churches either by night or by day ; that we 
will open the gates wide to passengers and travellers ; that 
we will receive any Muslim traveller into our houses and give 
him food and lodging for three nights ; that we will not 
harbour any spy in our churches or houses, or conceal any 
enemy of the Muslims ; that we will not teach our children 
the Qur'an ; ^ that we will not make a show of the Christian 
religion nor invite any one to embrace it ; that we will not 
prevent any of our kinsmen from embracing Islam, if they 
so desire. That we will honour the Muslims and rise up 
in our assemblies when they wish to take their seats ; that 
we will not imitate them in our dress, either in the cap, 
turban, sandals, or parting of the hair; that we will not 
make use of their expressions of speech,^ nor adopt their 
surnames ; that we will not ride on saddles, or gird on swords, 
or take to ourselves arms or wear them, or engrave Arabic 
inscriptions on our rings ; that we will not sell wine ; that 
we will shave the front of our heads ; that we will keep to 
our own style of dress, wherever we may be ; that we will 
wear girdles round our waists ; that we will not display the 
cross upon our churches or display our crosses or our sacred 
books in the streets of the Muslims, or in their market- 
places ; ^ that we will strike the bells * in our churches lightly ; 
that we will not recite our services in a loud voice when a 
Muslim is present, that we will not carry palm-branches or 
our images in procession in the streets, that at the burial 
of our dead we will not chant loudly or carry lighted candles 

^ " The 'Ulama' are divided in opinion on the question of the teaching 
of the Qur'an : the sect of Mahk forbids it : that of Abu Hanifah allows it ; 
and Shafi'i has two opinions on the subject : on the one hand, he counten- 
ances the study of it, as indicating a leaning towards Islam ; and on the 
other hand, he forbids it, because he fears that the unbeliever who studies 
the Qur'an being still impure may read it solely with the object of turning 
it to ridicule, since he is the enemy of God and the Prophet who wrote the 
book; now as these two statements are contradictory, Shafi'i has no 
formally stated opinion on this matter." (Belin, p. 508.) 

" Such as the forms of greeting, etc., that are only to be used by Muslims 
to one another. 

3 Abii Yiisuf (p. 82) says that Christians were to be allowed to go in 
procession once a year with crosses, but not with banners; outside the 
citv, not inside where the mosques were. 

* The naqus, lit. an oblong piece of wood, struck with a rod. 


in the streets of the Mushms or their market-places; that 
we will not take any slaves that have already been in the 
possession of Muslims, nor spy into their houses ; and that 
we will not strike any Muslim. All this we promise to 
observe, on behalf of ourselves and our co-religionists, and 
receive protection from you in exchange ; and if we violate 
any of the conditions of this agreement, then we forfeit 
your protection and you are at liberty to treat us as enemies 
and rebels." ^ 

The earliest mention of this document is made by Ibn 
Hazm, who died in the middle of the fifth century of the 
Hi] rah; its provisions represent the more intolerant practice 
of a later age, and indeed were regulations that were put 
into force with no sort of regularity, some outburst of 
fanaticism being generally needed for any appeal to be 
made for their application. There is abundant evidence to 
show that the Christians in the early dsLjs of the Muham- 
madan conquest had little to complain of in the way of 
religious disabihties. It is true that adherence to their 
ancient faith rendered them obnoxious to the payment of 
jiz3^ah — a word which originally denoted tribute of any 
kind paid by the non-Muslim subjects of the Arab empire, 
but came later on to be used for the capitation-tax as the 
fiscal system of the new rulers became fixed ; - but this 
jizyah was too moderate to constitute a burden, seeing that 
it released them from the compulsory military service 
that was incumbent on their Muslim fellow-subjects. 
Conversion to Islam was certainly attended by a certain 
pecuniary advantage, but his former rehgion could have 
had but little hold on a convert who abandoned it merely 
to gain exemption from the jizyah; and now, instead of 
jizyah, the convert had to pay the legal alms, zakat, annuall}^ 
levied on most kinds of movable and immovable property.^ 

1 Gottheil, pp. 3S2-4, where references are given to the various versions 
of this document. 

2 There is evidence to show that the Arab conquerors left unchanged 
the fiscal system that they found prevailing in the lands they conquered 
from the Byzantines, and that the explanation of jizyah as a capitation-tax 
is an invention of later jurists, ignorant of the true condition of affairs in 
the early days of Islam. (Caetani, vol. iv. p. 6io (§ 231) ; vol. v. p. 449.) 
H.Lammens: Ziad ibn Ablhi. (Ri vista degU Studi Oricntali, vol.iv.p. 215.) 

3 Goldziher, vol. i. pp. 50-7, 427-30. Caetani, vol. v. p. 311 sqq. 


The pecuniary temptation to escape the incidence of taxation 
by means of conversion was considerably lessened when 
financial considerations compelled the Arab government, 
towards the end of the first century, to insist on the new 
converts continuing to pay jizj'ah even after they had been 
received into the community of the faithful. ^ On the other 
hand it must be remembered that the non-Muslim sections 
of the population always ran the risk of becoming the victims 
of fiscal oppression when the state was in need of revenue. 

The rates of jizyah levied by the early conquerors were 
not uniform, 2 and the great Muslim doctors, Abii Hanifah 
and Malik, are not in agreement on some of the less im- 
portant details ; ^ the following facts taken from the Kitab 
al-Kiaraj, drawn up by Abu Yiisuf at the request of Harun 
al-Rashid (a.d. 786-809) may be taken as generally repre- 
sentative of Muhammadan procedure under the 'Abbasid 
Caliphate. The rich were to pay forty-eight dirhams * a 
year, the middle classes twenty-four, while from the poor, 
i. e. the field-labourers and artisans, only twelve dirhams 
were taken. This tax could be paid in kind if desired; 
cattle, merchandise, household effects, even needles were 
to be accepted in lieu of specie, but not pigs, wine, or dead 
animals. The tax was to be levied only on able-bodied 
males, and not on women or children. ^ The poor who were 
dependent for their livelihood on alms and the aged poor 
who were incapable of work were also specially excepted, 
as also the blind, the lame, the incurables and the insane, 
unless they happened to be men of wealth ; this same con- 
dition applied to priests and monks, who were exempt if 
dependent on the alms of the rich, but had to pay if they 
were well-to-do and lived in comfort. The collectors of 
the jizyah were particularly instructed to show lenienc}^ 
and refrain from all harsh treatment or the infliction of 
corporal punishment, in case of non-payment. ^ 

This tax was not imposed on the Christians, as some 
would have us think, as a penalty for their refusal to accept 
the Muslim faith, but was paid by them in common with the 

1 Caetani, vol. v. pp. 424 (§ 752), 432. ^ Baladhuri, pp. 124-5. 

» A. von Krcmer (i), vol. i. pp. 60, 436. •» A dirham is about fivepencc. 

* Bell, pp. XXV, 173. 6 Abu Yusuf, pp. 69-71. 


other dhimmis or non-Muslim subjects of the state whose 
religion precluded them from serving in the army, in return 
for the protection secured for them by the arms of the 
Musalmans. When the people of Hirah contributed the 
sum agreed upon, they expressl}- mentioned that they paid 
this jizyah on condition that " the Mushms and their leader 
protect us from those who would oppress us, whether they 
be Muslims or others." ^ Again, in the treaty made by 
Hialid with some towns in the neighbourhood of Hirah, 
he writes : " If we protect you, then jizyah is due to us ; but 
if we do not, then it is not due." ^ How clearly this con- 
dition was recognised by the Muhammadans may be judged 
from the following incident in the reign of the Caliph 'Umar. 
The Emperor Heraclius had raised an enormous army with 
which to drive back the invading forces of the Muslims, 
who had in consequence to concentrate all their energies 
on the impending encounter. The Arab general, Abu 
'Ubaydah, accordingly wrote to the governors of the con- 
quered cities of Syria, ordering them to pay back all the 
jizyah that had been collected from the cities, and wrote 
to the people, saying, " We give you back the money that 
we took from you, as we have received news that a strong 
force is advancing against us. The agreement between u 
was that we should protect you, and as this is not now in 
our power, we return you all that we took. But if we are 
victorious we shall consider ourselves bound to you by the 
old terms of our agreement." In accordance with this 
order, enormous sums were paid back out of the state 
treasury, and the Christians called down blessings on the 
heads of the Muslims, saying, " May God give you rule over 
us again and make you victorious over the Romans; had 
it been they, they would not have given us back anything, 
but would have taken all that remained with us." ^ 

As stated above, the jizyah was levied on the able-bodied 
males, in lieu of the military service they would have been 
called upon to perform had they been Musalmans ; and it 
is very noticeable that when any Christian people served 
in the Muslim army, they were exempted from the payment 

^ Tabari, Prima Series, p. 2055. * Id. p. 2050. 

* Abu Yusuf, p. 81. 


of this tax. Such was the case with the tribe of al-Jura- 
jimah, a Christian tribe in the neighbourhood of Antioch, 
who made peace with the Mushms, promising to be their 
alhes and fight on their side in battle, on condition that 
they should not be called upon to pay jizyah and should 
receive their proper share of the booty.^ When the Arab 
conquests were pushed to the north of Persia in a.h. 22, a 
similar agreement was made with a frontier tribe, which 
was exempted from the payment of jizyah in consideration 
of military service.- 

We find similar instances of the remission of jizyah in 
the case of Christians who served in the army or navy under 
the Turkish rule. For example, the inhabitants of Megaris, 
a community of Albanian Christians, were exempted from 
the payment of this tax on condition that they furnished a 
body of armed men to guard the passes over Mounts Cithseron 
and Geranea, which lead to the Isthmus of Corinth; the 
Christians who served as pioneers of the advance-guard of 
the Turkish army, repairing the roads and bridges, were 
likewise exempt from tribute and received grants of land 
quit of all taxation ; ^ and the Christian inhabitants of Hydra 
paid no direct taxes to the Sultan, but furnished instead a 
contingent of 250 able-bodied seamen to the Turkish fleet, 
who were supported out of the local treasury.* 

The Southern Rumanians, the so-called Armatoli,^ who 
constituted so important an element of strength in the 
Turkish army during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 
and the Mirdites, a tribe of Albanian Catholics who occupied 
the mountains to the north of Scutari, were exempt from 
taxation on condition of supplying an armed contingent in 
time of war.^ In the same spirit, in consideration of the 
services they rendered to the state, the capitation-tax was 
not imposed upon the Greek Christians who looked after 
the aqueducts that supplied Constantinople with drinking 
water,' nor on those who had charge of the powder-magazine 
in that city.*^ On the other hand, when the Egyptian 

^ Baladhurl. p. 159. 2 Xabari, Prima Series, p. 2665. 

' Marsigli, vol. i. p. 86 (he calls them" Musellim"). 

* Finlay, vol. vi. pp. 30, 33. ^ Lazgr, p. 56. 

* De la Jonquiere, p. 14. '' Thomas Smith, p. 324. 
** Dorostamus, p. 326. 


peasants, although Mushm in faith, were made exempt from 
mihtary service, a tax was imposed upon them as on the 
Christians, in heu thereof. ^ 

Living under this security of hfe and property and such 
toleration of religious thought, the Christian community — 
especially in the towns — enjo^-ed a flourishing prosperity 
in the early da3's of the Caliphate. 

Mu'awiyah (661-680) employed Christians very largely 
in his service, and other members of the reigning house 
followed his example.- Christians frequentl}^ held high posts 
at court, e. g. a Christian Arab, al-A]dital, was court poet, 
and the father of St. John of Damascus, counsellor to the 
caliph 'Abd al-Malik (685-705). In the service of the 
caliph al-Mu'tasim (833-842), there were two brothers, 
Christians, who stood very high in the confidence of the 
Commander of the Faithful : the one, named Salmiiyah, 
seems to have occupied somewhat the position of a 
modern secretary of state, and no royal documents were 
vahd until countersigned by him, while his brother, 
Ibrahim, was entrusted with the care of the privy seal, 
and was set over the Bayt al-Mal or Public Treasury, 
an office that, from the nature of the funds and their dis- 
posal, might have been expected to have been put into the 
hands of a Muslim; so great was the caliph's personal 
affection for this Ibrahim, that he visited him in his sickness, 
and was overwhelmed with grief at his death, and on the 
day of the funeral ordered the body to be brought to the 
palace and the Christian rites performed there with great 

'Abd al-Malik appointed a certain Athanasius, a Christian 
scholar of Edessa, tutor to his brother, 'Abd al-'Aziz. 
Athanasius accompanied his pupil, when he was appointed 
governor of Egypt, and there amassed great wealth ; he is 
said to have possessed 4000 slaves, villages, houses, gardens, 
and gold and silver " hke stones "; his sons took a dinar 
from each of the soldiers when they received their pay, and 
as there were 30,000 troops then in Egypt, some idea may 
be formed of the wealth that Athanasius accumulated during 

1 De la Jonquiere, p. 265. 2 Lammens, p. 13. 

' Ibn Abi Usaybi'ah, vol. i. p. 164. 


the twenty-one years that he spent in that country. ^ At 
the close of the eighth century, a certain Abii Nuh al-Anbari 
was secretary to Abii Miisa b. Mus'ab, governor of Mosul, 
and used his powerful influence for the benefit of his Christian 
co-religionists. 2 

In the reign of al-Mu'tadid (892-902), the governor of 
Anbar, 'Umar b. Yiisuf, was a Christian, and the caliph ap- 
proved of the appointment on the ground that if a Christian 
were found to be competent, a post might well be given to 
him, as there were better reasons for trusting a Christian 
than either a Jew, a Muslim or a Zoroastrian.' Al-Muwaffaq, 
who was virtual ruler of the empire during the reign of his 
brother al-Mu'tamid (870-892), entrusted the administra- 
tion of the army to a Christian named Israel, and his son, 
al-Mu'tadid, had as one of his secretaries another Christian, 
Malik b. al-Walid. In a later reign, that of al-Muqtadir 
(908-932), a Christian was again in charge of the war office.* 

Nasr b. Harun, the Prime Minister of 'Adud al-Dawlah 
(949-982), of the Buwayhid dynasty of Persia, who ruled 
over Southern Persia and 'Iraq, was a Christian.^ For a 
long time, the government offices, especially in the depart- 
ment of finance, were filled with Christians and Persians ; " 
to a much later date was such the case in Egypt, where 
at times the Christians almost entirely monopolised such 
posts. '^ Particularly as physicians, the Christians fre- 
quently amassed great wealth and were much honoured in 
the houses of the great. Gabriel, the personal physician 
of the caliph Hariin al-Rashid, was a Nestorian Christian 
and derived a yearly income of 800,000 dirhams from his 
private property, in addition to an emolument of 280,000 
dirhams a year in return for his attendance on the caliph; 
the second physician, also a Christian, received 22,000 
dirhams a year.^ In trade and commerce, the Christians 
also attained considerable affluence : indeed it was fre- 
quently their wealth that excited against them the jealous 

^ Michael the Elder, vol. ii. p. 475. 

* Mari b. Sulayman, p. 71 (1. 16). Abu Nuh al-Anbari wrote a refutation 
of the Qur'an and other theological works (Wright, p. 191 n. 3). 

^ Mari b. Sulayman, p. 84. * Hilal al-Sabi, p. 95. 

•' Ibn al-Athir, vol. ix. p. 16. 

* Von Kremer (i), vol. i. pp. 167-8. Lammens, p. 11. 

' Renaudot, pp. 430, 540. ^ Von Kremer (i), vol. ii. pp. 180-1. 


cupidity of the mob — a feeling that fanatics took advantage 
of, to persecute and oppress them. Further, the non- 
Mushm communities enjoyed an almost complete autonomy, 
for the government placed in their hands the independent 
management of their internal affairs, and their religious 
leaders exercised judicial functions in cases that concerned 
their co-religionists only.^ Their churches and monasteries 
were, for the most part, not interfered with, except in the 
large cities, where some of them were turned into mosques — 
a measure that could hardly be objected to in view of the 
enormous increase in the Muslim and corresponding decrease 
in the Christian population. 

Recent historical criticism has demonstrated the im- 
possibility of the legend that when Damascus was taken 
b}' the Arabs, the churches were equall}^ divided between the 
Christians and the conquerors, on the plea that while one 
Muslim general made his way into the city by the eastern 
gate at the point of the sword, another at the western gate 
received the submission of the governor of the city; a 
similar scrutiny of historical documents as well as of the 
topography of the building has shown that the great cathe- 
dral of St. John could never have been used in the manner 
described by some Arabic historians as a common place of 
worship for both Christians and Muslims. ^ But the very 
fact that these historians should have believed that such an 
arrangement continued for nearly eighty years, testifies to 
the early recognition of the liberty granted to the Christians 
of practising the observances of their rehgion. 

The opinion of the Muhammadan legists is very diverse 
on this question, from the more liberal HanafI doctrine, 
which declares that, though it is unlawful to construct 
churches and synagogues in Muhammadan territory, those 
already existing can be repaired if they have been destroyed 
or have fallen into decay, while in villages and hamlets, 
where the tokens of Islam do not appear, new churches and 
synagogues may be built — to the intolerant Hanbalite view 
that they may neither be erected nor be restored when 
damaged or ruined. Some legists held that the privileges 
varied according to treaty rights : in towns taken by force, 

^ Von Kremer (i), vol. i. p. 183. * Caetani, vol. iii. pp. 350 sq., 387 sqq. 


no new houses of prayer might be erected by d]iimmis. but 
if a special treaty had been made, the building of new 
churches and s3/nagogues was allowed.^ But like so many 
of the lucubrations of Muhammadan legists, these prescrip- 
tions bore but little relation to actual facts. ^ Schoolmen 
might agree that the dhimmis could build no houses 
of prayer in a city of Muslim foundation, but the 
civil authority permitted the Copts to erect churches 
in the new capital of Cairo, ^ In other cities also the 
Christians were allowed to erect new churches and 
monasteries. The very fact that 'Umar II (717-720), at 
the close of the first century of the Hijrah, should have 
ordered the destruction of all recently constructed churches,'* 
and that rather more than a century later, the fanatical 
al-Mutawakkil (847-861) should have had to repeat the 
same order, shows how little the prohibition of the building 
of new churches was put into force. '^ We have numerous 
instances recorded, both by Christian and Muhammadan 
historians, of the building of new churches : e. g. in the reign 
of 'Abd al-Malik (685-705), a wealthy Christian of Edessa, 
named Athanasius, erected in his native city a fine church 
dedicated to the Mother of God, and a Baptistery in honour 
of the picture of Christ that was reputed to have been sent 
to King Abgar; he also built a number of churches and 
monasteries in various parts of Egypt, among them two 
magnificent churches in Fustat.^ Some Christian chamber- 
lains in the service of 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Marwan (brother of 
'Abd al-Malik), the governor of Egypt, obtained permission 
to build a church in Halwan, which was dedicated to St. 
John,' though this town was a Muslim creation. In a.d. 711 
a Jacobite church was built at Antioch by order of the caliph 
al-Walid (705-715).^ In the first year of the reign of Yazld 

^ Gottheil, pp. 360-1 . Goldziher : Zur Literatur des Ichtilaf al- 
madahib, ZDMG., vol. 38, pp. 673-4. 

^ On this theoretical character of much of Muslim legal literature, see 
Snouck Hurgonje : Mohammedanisches Recht in Theorie und Wirklichkeit. 

» Gottheil, p. 363. 

* Gottheil, pp. 358-9, however, doubts whether there is evidence for 
attributing this intolerance to 'Umar II. 

^ Journal Asiatique, IV'"= serie, tome xviii. (1851), pp. 433, 450. Jabari, 
III, p. 1419. 

* Michael the Elder, vol. ii. p. 476. Renaudot, p. 189. 

' Eutychius, II, p. 41 init. Severus (p. 139) says " two churches." 

* Von Kremer (i), vol. ii. p. 175. 


II (a.d. 720), Mar Elias, the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, 
made a solemn entry into Antioch, accompanied by his 
clergy and monks, to consecrate a new church which he 
had caused to be built ; and in the following year he conse- 
crated another church in the village of Sarmada, in the dis- 
trict of Antioch, and the only opposition he met with was 
from the rival Christian sect that accepted the Council of 
Chalcedon.i In the following reign, Khalid al-QasrI, who was 
governor of Arabian and Persian 'Iraq from 724 to 738, built 
a church for his mother, who was a Christian, to worship in.^ 
In 759 the building of a church at Nisibis was completed, on 
which the Nestorian bishop, Cyprian, had expended a sum 
of 56,000 dinars.^ From the same century dates the church 
of Abii Sir j ah in the ancient Roman fortress in old Cairo.* 
In the reign of al-Mahdl (775-785) a church was erected in 
Baghdad for the use of the Christian prisoners that had 
been taken captive during the numerous campaigns against 
the Byzantine empire. ^ Another church was built in the 
same city, in the reign of Hariin al-Rashid (786-809), by 
the people of Samalu, who had submitted to the caliph 
and received protection from him ; ® during the same reign 
Sergius, the Nestorian Metropolitan of Basrah, received 
permission to build a church in that city,' though it was a 
Muslim foundation, having been created by the caliph 
'Umar in the year 638, and a magnificent church was erected 
in Babylon in which were enshrined the bodies of the 
prophets Daniel and Ezechiel.^ When al-Ma'miin (813- 
833) was in Egypt he gave permission to two of his chamber- 
lains to erect a church on al-Muqattam, a hill near Cairo; 
and by the same caliph's leave, a wealthy Christian, named 
Bukam, built several fine churches at Biirah in Egypt. ^ 
The Nestorian Patriarch, Timotheus, who died a.d. 820, 
erected a church at Takrit and a monastery at Bagdad. i" 
In the tenth century, the beautiful Coptic church of Abu 

^ Michael the Elder, vol. ii. pp. 490, 491. 

- Ibn Khallikan, vol. i. p. 485. s Elias of Nisibis, p. 128. 

* A. J. Butler : The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, vol. i. p. iSi. 
(Oxford, 1884.) 5 Yaqut, vol. ii. p. 662. 

« Yaqut, vol. ii. p. 670. ^ Mari b. Sulayman, p. 73. 

* Ishok of Romgla, p. 266. « Eutychius, II, p. 58. 
^^ Von Kremer (i), vol. ii. pp. 175-6. 


Sayfayn was built in Fustat.^ A new church was built at 
Jiddah in the reign of al-Zahir, the seventh Fatimid caliph 
of Egypt (1020-1035).^ New churches and monasteries 
were also built in the reign of the 'Abbasid, al-Mustadi 
(1170-1180).^ In 1187 a church was built at Fustat and 
dedicated to Our Lady the Pure Virgin.^ 

Indeed, so far from the development of the Christian 
Church being hampered by the establishment of Muham- 
madan rule, the history of the Nestorians exhibits a re- 
markable outburst of religious life and energy from the 
time of their becoming subject to the Mushms.^ Alternately 
petted and persecuted by the Persian kings, in whose 
dominions by far the majority of the members of this sect 
were found, it had passed a rather precarious existence and 
had been subjected to harsh treatment, when war between 
Persia and Byzantium exposed it to the suspicion of sympa- 
thising with the Christian enemy. But, under the rule of 
the caliphs, the security they enjoyed at home enabled 
them to vigorously push forward their missionary enter- 
prises abroad. Missionaries were sent into China and 
India, both of which were raised to the dignity of metro- 
politan sees in the eighth century; about the same period 
they gained a footing in Egypt, and later spread the Christian 
faith right across Asia, and by the eleventh century had 
gained many converts from among the Tatars. ^ 

If the other Christian sects failed to exhibit the same 
vigorous life, it was not the fault of the Muhammadans. 
All were tolerated alike by the supreme government, and 
furthermore were prevented from persecuting one another,' 
In the fifth century, Barsauma, a Nestorian bishop, had per- 
suaded the Persian king to set on foot a fierce persecution 

^ Butler : Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, vol. i. p. 76. 

2 Renaudot, p. 399. ' Ishok of Romgla, p. 333. * Abu Salih, p. 92, 

° A Dominican monk from Florence, by name Ricoldus de Monte Crucis, 
who visited the East about the close of the thirteenth and the beginning 
of the fourteenth century, speaks of the toleration the Nestorians had 
enjoyed under Muhammadan rule right up to his time : " Et ego inveni 
per antiquas historias et autenticas aput Saracenos, quod ipsi Nestorini 
amici fuerunt Machometi et confederati cum eo, et quod ipse Machometus 
mandauit suis posteris, quod Nestorinos maxime conseruarent. Quod 
usque hodie diligentcr obseruant ipsi Sarraceni." (Laurent, p. 128.) 

* J. Labourt : De Timotheo I, Nestorianorum Patriarcha, p. 37 sqq. 
(Paris, 1904.) 7 E. von Dobschiitz, p. 390-1. 


of the Orthodox Church, by representing Nestorius as a 
friend of the Persians and his doctrines as approximating 
to their own ; as many as 7800 of the Orthodox clergy, with 
an enormous number of la3'men, are said to have been 
butchered during this persecution. ^ Another persecution 
was instituted against the Orthodox by Khusrau II, after 
the invasion of Persia by Herachus, at the instigation of a 
Jacobite, who persuaded the King that the Orthodox would 
always be favourably inclined towards the Byzantines. ^ 
But the principles of Mushm toleration forbade such acts of 
injustice as these : on the contrary, it seems to have been 
their endeavour to deal fairly by all their Christian subjects : 
e. g. after the conquest of Egypt, the Jacobites took ad- 
vantage of the expulsion of the Byzantine authorities to 
rob the Orthodox of their churches, but later they were 
restored by the Muhammadans to their rightful owners when 
these had made good their claim to possess them.^ 

In view of the toleration thus extended to their Christian 
subjects in the early period of the Muslim rule, the common 
hypothesis of the sword as the factor of conversion seems 
hardly satisfactory, and we are compelled to seek for other 
motives than that of persecution. But unfortunately very 
few details are forthcoming and we are obliged to have 
recourse to conjecture.'* In an age so prolific of theological 
speculation, there may well have been some thinkers whose 
trend of thought had prepared them for the acceptance 
of the Muhammadan position. Such were those Shahrighan 
or landed proprietors in Persia in the eighth century, who 
were nominally Christians, but maintained that Christ was 
an ordinary man and that he was as one of the Prophets. ^ 
They appear at times to have given a good deal of trouble 

^ Michael the Elder, vol. ii. p. 439-40. 

2 Makin, p. 12. J. Labourt : Le Christianisme sous la dynastie sassanide, 
p. 139 sq. (Paris, 1904.) 

^ Renaudot, p. 169. 

* Von Kremer well remarks : " Wir verdanken dem unermiidlichen 
Sammelfleiss der arabischen Chronisten unsere Kenntniss der politischen 
und militarischen Geschichte jener Zeiten, welche so genau ist als dies nur 
immer auf eine Entfernung von zwolf Jahrhunderten der Fall sein kann ; 
allein gerade die innere Geschichte jener denkwiirdigen Epoche, die Ges- 
chichte des Kampfes einer neuen, rohen Religion gegen die alten hoch- 
gebildeten, zum Thcile iiberbildeten Ciilte ist kaum in ihren allg-^meinsten 
Umrissen bekannt." (Von Kremer (2), pp. 1-2.) 

» Thomas of Marga, vol. ii. p. 309 sq. 


to the Nestorian clergy, who were at great pains to draw 
them into the paths of orthodoxy ; i but their theological 
position was more closely akin to Islam than to Christian 
doctrine, and they probably went to swell the ranks of the 
converts after the Arab conquest of the Persian empire. 
Many Christian theologians ^ have supposed that the 
debased condition — moral and spiritual— of the Eastern 
Church of that period must have alienated the hearts of 
many and driven them to seek a healthier spiritual atmo- 
sphere in the faith of Islam which had come to them in all 
the vigour of new-born zeal.^ For example, Dean Milman •* 
asks, " What was the state of the Christian world in the 
provinces exposed to the first invasion of Mohammedanism ? 
Sect opposed to sect, clergy wrangling with clergy upon the 
most abstruse and metaphysical points of doctrine. The 
orthodox, the Nestorians, the Eutychians, the Jacobites 
were persecuting each other with unexhausted animosity; 
and it is not judging too severely the evils of religious con- 
troversy to suppose that many would rejoice in the degra- 
dation of their adversaries under the yoke of the unbeliever, 
rather than make common cause with them in defence of the 
common Christianity, In how many must this incessant 
disputation have shaken the foundations of their faith ! 
It had been wonderful if thousands had not, in their weari- 
ness and perplexit}^ sought refuge from these interminable 
and implacable controversies in the simple, intelligible truth 
of the Divine Unity, though purchased by the acknow- 
ledgment of the prophetic mission of Mohammed." 
Similarly, Caetani sees in the spread of Islam, among 
the Christians of the Eastern Churches, a revulsion of 
feeling from the dogmatic subtleties introduced into Chris- 
tian theology by the Hellenistic spirit. " For the East, 
with its love of clear and simple concepts, Hellenic culture 
was, from the religious point of view, a misfortune, because 

^ Thomas of Marga, vol. ii. pp. 310, 324 sq. 

- Cf. in addition to the passages quoted below, M'Clintoch & Strong's 
Cyclopaedia, sub art. Mohammedanism, vol. vi. p. 420. James Freeman 
Clarke : Ten Great Religions, Part ii. p. 75. (London, 1883.) 

^ Thus the Emperor Hcraclius is represented by the Muhammadan 
historian as saying, " Their religion is a new religion which gives them new 
zeal." (Tabarl, p. 2103.) 

* History of Latin Christianity, vol. ii. pp. 216-17. 


it changed the subHme and simple teachings of Christ into 
a creed bristhng with incomprehensible dogmas, full of 
doubts and uncertainties; these ended with producing a 
feeling of deep dismay and shook the very foundations of 
rehgious belief ; so that when at last there appeared, coming 
out suddenly from the desert, the news of the new revela- 
tion, this bastard oriental Christianity, torn asunder by 
internal discords, wavering in its fundamental dogmas, 
dismayed by such incertitudes, could no longer resist the 
temptations of a new faith, which swept away at one single 
stroke all miserable doubts, and offered, along with simple, 
clear and undisputed doctrines, great material advantages 
also. The East then abandoned Christ and threw itself into 
the arms of the Prophet of Arabia." ^ 

Again, Canon Taylor 2 says : " It is easy to understand 
why this reformed Judaism spread so swiftly over Africa 
and Asia. The African and Syrian doctors had substituted 
abstruse metaphysical dogmas for the religion of Christ : 
they tried to combat the hcentiousness of the age by setting 
forth the celestial merit of celibacy and the angehc excellence 
of virginity — seclusion from the world was the road of 
holiness, dirt was the characteristic of monkish sanctity — 
the people were practically polytheists, worshipping a crowd 
of martyrs, saints and angels; the upper classes were 
effeminate and corrupt, the middle classes oppressed by 
taxation,^ the slaves without hope for the present or the 
future. As with the besom of God, Islam swept away this 
mass of corruption and superstition. It was a revolt against 
empty theological polemics; it was a masculine protest 
against the exaltation of cehbacy as a crown of piety. It 
brought out the fundamental dogmas of religion — the unity 
and greatness of God, that He is merciful and righteous, 
that He claims obedience to His will, resignation and faith. 
It proclaimed the responsibility of man, a future life, a day 
of judgment, and stern retribution to fall upon the wicked ; 
and enforced the duties of prayer, almsgiving, fasting and 

^ Caetani, vol. ii. pp. 1045-6. 

^ A paper read before the Church Congress at Wolverhampton, October 
7th, 1887. 

3 For the oppressive fiscal system under the Byzantine empire,, see 
Gfrorcr : Byzantinische Geschichten, vol. ii, pp, 337-9^ 389-9?< ^50- 


benevolence. It thrust aside the artificial virtues, the 
religious frauds and follies, the perverted moral sentiments, 
and the verbal subtleties of theological disputants. It 
replaced monkishness by manliness. It gave hope to the 
slave, brotherhood to mankind, and recognition to the 
fundamental facts of human nature." 

Islam has, moreover, been represented as a reaction 
against that Byzantine ecclesiasticism,^ which looked upon 
the emperor and his court as a copy of the Divine Majesty 
on high, and the emperor himself as not only the supreme 
earthly ruler of Christendom, but as High-priest also.^ 
Under Justinian this S3'stem had been hardened into a 
despotism that pressed like an iron weight upon clergy and 
laity alike. In 532 the widespread dissatisfaction in Con- 
stantinople with both church and state, burst out into a 
revolt against the government of Justinian, which was only 
suppressed after a massacre of 35,000 persons. The Greens, 
as the part}^ of the malcontents was termed, had made open 
and violent protest in the circus against the oppression of 
the emperor, crying out, " Justice has vanished from the 
world and is no more to be found. But we will become 
Jews, or rather we will return again to Grecian paganism." ^ 
The lapse of a century had removed none of the grounds 
for the dissatisfaction that here found such violent expres- 
sion, but the heavy hand of the Byzantine government 
prevented the renewal of such an outbreak as that of 532 
and compelled the malcontents to dissemble, though in 
560 some secret heathens were detected in Constantinople 
and punished."* On the borders of the empire, however, 
at a distance from the capital, such malcontents were safer, 
and the persecuted heretics, and others dissatisfied with the 

^ " Der Islam war ein Riickstoss gegen den Missbrauch, welchen Justinian 
mit der Menschheit, besonders aber mit der christlichen Religion trieb, 
deren oberstes geistliches und weltliches Haupt er zu sein behauptete. 
Dass der Araber Mahomed, welcher 571 der christlichen Zeitrechnung, 
sechs Jahre nach dem Tode Justinians, das Licht der Welt erblickte, mit 
seiner Lehre unerhortes Gliick machte, verdankte er grossentheils dem 
Abscheu, welchen die im Umkreise des byzantinischen Reiches angeses- 
senen Volker, wie die benachbarten Nationen, iiber die von dem Basileus 
begangenen Greuel empfanden." (Gfrorer : Byzantinische Geschichten, 
vol. ii. p. 437.) 

2 Id. vol. ii. pp. 296-306, 337. 9 Id. vol. ii. pp. 442-4. 

 Id, vol. ii. p. 445. 


Byzantine state-church, took refuge in the East, and here 
the Mushm armies would be welcomed by the spiritual 
children of those who a hundred years before had desired to 
exchange the Christian rehgion for another faith. 

Further, the general adoption of the Arabic language 
throughout the empire of the cahphate, especiall}^ in the 
towns and the great centres of population, and the gradual 
assimilation in manners and customs that in the course of 
about two centuries caused the numerous conquered races to 
be largely merged in the national life of the ruling race, had 
no doubt a counterpart in the religious and intellectual life of 
many members of the protected religions. The rationalistic 
movement that so powerfully influenced Muslim theology 
from the second to the fifth centur}^ of the Hijrah may very 
possibly have influenced Christian thinkers, and turned 
them from a religion, the prevailing tone of whose theology 
seems at this time to have been Credo quia impossihile. A 
Muhammadan writer of the fourth century of the Hijrah 
has preserved for us a conversation with a Coptic Christian 
which may safely be taken as characteristic of the general 
mental attitude of the rest of the Eastern Churches at this 
period : — 

" My proof for the truth of Christianity is, that I find 
its teachings contradictory and mutually destructive, for 
they are repugnant to reason and revolting to the intellect, 
on account of their inconsistency and mutual contrariety. 
No reflection can strengthen them, no discussion can prove 
them ; and however thoughtfully we may investigate them, 
neither the intellect nor the senses can provide us with any 
argument in support of them. Notwithstanding this, I 
have seen that many nations and mighty kings of learning 
and sound judgment, have given in their allegiance to the 
Christian faith; so I conclude that if these have accepted 
it in spite of all the contradictions referred to, it is because 
the proofs they have received, in the form of signs and 
miracles, have compelled them to submit to it." ^ 

On the other hand, it should be remembered that those 
who passed over from Christianity to Islam, under the 
influence of the rationalistic tendencies of the age, would 

1 Mas'udi, vol. ii. p. 387. 


find in the Mu'tazilite presentment of Muslim theology, very 
much that was common to the two faiths, so that as far as 
the articles of belief and the intellectual attitude towards 
many theological questions were concerned, the transition 
was not so violent as might be supposed. To say nothing 
of the numerous fundamental doctrines, that will at once 
suggest themselves to those even who have only a slight 
knowledge of the teachings of the Prophet, there were many 
other common points of view, that were the direct conse- 
quences of the close relationships between the Christian and 
Muhammadan theologians in Damascus under the Umay3'ad 
caliphs as also in later times ; for it has been maintained 
that there is clear evidence of the influence of the Byzantine 
theologians on the development of the systematic treatment 
of Muhammadan dogmatics. The very form and arrange- 
ment of the oldest rule of faith in the Arabic language 
suggest a comparison with similar treatises of St. John of 
Damascus and other Christian fathers.^ The oldest Arab 
Sufiism, the trend of which was purely towards the ascetic 
life (as distinguished from the later pantheistic Siifiism) 
originated largely under the influence of Christian thought. ^ 
Such influence is especially traceable in the doctrines of some 
of the Mu'tazilite sects, ^ who busied themselves with specu- 
lations on the attributes of the divine nature quite in the 
manner of the Byzantine theologians : the Qadariyyah or 
libertarians of Islam probably borrowed their doctrine of 
the freedom of the will directly from Christianity, while the 
Murji'ah in their denial of the doctrine of eternal punish- 
ment were in thorough agreement with the teaching of the 
Eastern Church on this subject as against the generally 
received opinion of orthodox Muslims.* On the other hand, 
the influence of the more orthodox doctors of Islam in the 
conversion of unbelievers is attested by the tradition that 
twenty thousand Christians, Jews and Magians became 
Muslims when the great Imam Ibn Hanbal died.^ A cele- 

1 Von Kremer (2), p. 8. - Id. p. 54 and (3), p. 32. Nicholson, p. 231. 

^ Among the Mu'tazilite philosophers, Muhammad b. al-Huzayl, the 
teacher of al-Ma'mun, is said to have converted more than three thousand 
persons to Islam. (Ahmad b. Yahya b. al-Murtada, p. 26, 1. 7.) 

^ Von Kremer (2), pp. 3, 7-8. C. H. Becker : Christliche Polemik und 
islamische Dogmenbildung (Zeitschrift fiir Assyriologie, xxvi. 1912), 

^ Ibn Khallikan. vol. i. p. 45. 


brated doctor of the same sect, Abu'l-Faraj b. al-Jawzi 
(a.d. 1115-1201), the most learned man of his time, a popular 
preacher and most prolific writer, is said to have boasted 
that just the same number of persons accepted the faith of 
Islam at his hands. ^ 

Further, the vast and unparalleled success of the Muslim 
arms shook the faith of the Christian peoples that came 
under their rule and saw in these conquests the hand of 
God. 2 Worldly prosperity they associated with the divine 
favour and the God of battle (they thought) would surely 
give the victory only into the hands of his favoured servants. 
Thus the very success of the Muhammadans seemed to argue 
the truth of their religion. 

The Islamic ideal of the brotherhood of all believers was 
a powerful attraction towards this creed, and though the 
Arab pride of birth strove to refuse for several generations 
the privileges of the ruling race to the new converts, still 
as " clients " of the various Arab tribes to which at first 
they used to be affiliated, they received a recognised position 
in the community, and by the close of the first century of 
the Hijrah they had vindicated for this ideal its true place 
in Muslim theology and at least a theoretical recognition in 
the state. ^ 

But the condition of the Christians did not always continue 
to be so tolerable as under the earlier caliphs. In the 
interests of the true believers, vexatious conditions were 
sometimes imposed upon the non-Muslim population (or 
dhimmis) . with the object of securing for the faith- 
ful superior social advantages. Unsuccessful attempts 
were made by several caliphs to exclude them from the 
public offices. Decrees to this effect were passed by al- 
Mansiir (754-775), al-Mutawakkil (847-861), al-Muqtadir 
(908-932), and in Egypt by al-Amir (1101-1130), one of 
the Fatimid caliphs, and by the Mamliik Sultans in the 

^ Wustenfeld, p. 103. 

2 Michael the Elder, vol. ii. pp. 412-13. Caetani, vol. v. p. 508. (" Le 
vittorie sui Greci e sui Persian! non solamente erano il trionfo della 
razza araba sulle popolazioni dellc provincie conquistate, ma nella mente 
orientale che vede in tutto la mano di Dio, costituivano un trionfo del 
principio islamico su quelle cristiano e mazdeista, ma sovrattutto sui 

3 Goldziher, vol. i. chaps. 3 and 4. 


fourteenth century.^ But the very fact that these decrees 
excluding the dhimmis from government posts were so often 
renewed, is a sign of the want of any continuity or per- 
sistency in putting such intolerant measures into practice. 
In fact they may generally be traced either to popular in- 
dignation excited by the harsh and insolent behaviour of 
Christian officials, ^ or to outbursts of fanaticism which 
forced upon the government acts of oppression that were 
contrary to the general spirit of Muslim rule and were 
consequently allowed to lapse as soon as possible. 

The beginning of a harsher treatment of the native 
Christian population dates from the reign of Harun al-Rashid 
(786-809) who ordered them to wear a distinctive dress and 
give up the government posts they held to Muslims, 
The first of these orders shows how little one at least of 
the ordinances ascribed to 'Umar was observed, and these 
decrees were the outcome, not so much of any purely re- 
ligious feeling, as of the political circumstances of the time. 
The Christians under Muhammadan rule have often had 
to suffer for the bad faith kept by foreign Christian powers 
in their relations with Muhammadan princes, and on this 
occasion it was the treachery of the Byzantine Emperor, 
Nicephorus, that caused the Christian name to stink in the 
nostrils of Hariin.^ Many of the persecutions of Christians 
in Muslim countries can be traced either to distrust of their 
loyalty, excited by the intrigues and interference of Christian 
foreigners and the enemies of Islam, or to the bad feeling 
stirred up by the treacherous or brutal behaviour of the 
latter towards the Musalmans. Religious fanaticism is, 
however, responsible for many of such persecutions, as in 
the reign of the Caliph al-Mutawakkil (847-861), under 
whom severe measures of oppression were taken against 
the Christians. This prince took advantage of the strong 
Orthodox reaction that had set in in Muhammadan theology 
against the rationalistic and freethinking tendencies that 

^ The last of these was prompted by the discovery of an attempt on the 
part of the Christians to burn the city of Cairo. (De Guigncs, vol. iv. pp. 
204-5.) Gottheil, p. 359, Journal Asiatique, IV"»^ serie, tome xviii. (1851), 
pp. 454, 455. 463, 484, 491. 

- Assemani, torn. iii. pars. 2, p. c. Renaudot, pp. 432, 603, 607. 

' Muir ; The Caliphate, p. 475. 


had had free play under former rulers, — and came forward 
as the champion of the extreme orthodox party, to which 
the mass of the people as contrasted with the higher classes 
belonged,! a.nd which was eager to exact vengeance for the 
persecutions it had itself suffered in the two preceding 
reigns ; ^ he sought to curry their favour by persecuting 
the Mu'tazilites, forbidding all further discussions on the 
Qur'an and declaring the doctrine that it was created, to 
be heretical ; he had the followers of 'AH imprisoned and 
beaten, pulled down the tomb of Husayn at Karbala' and 
forbade pilgrimages to be made to the site. The Christians 
shared in the sufferings of the other heretics; for al- 
Mutawakkil put rigorously into force the rules that had 
been passed in former reigns prescribing a distinction in 
the dress of dhimmis and Muslims, ordered that the Christians 
should no longer be employed in the public offices, doubled 
the capitation-tax, forbade them to have Mushm slaves or 
use the same baths as the Muslims, and harassed them with 
several other restrictions. 

It is noteworthy that the historians of the Nestorian 
Church — which had to suffer most from this persecution — 
describe it as something new and individual to al-Muta- 
wakkil, and as ceasing with his death. ^ One of his 
successors, al-Muqtadir (a.d. 908-932), renewed these regu- 
lations, which the lapse of half a century had apparently 
caused to fall into disuse. 

Other outbursts of fanaticism led to the destruction of 
churches and synagogues,^ and the terror of such persecution 
led to the defection of man}/ from the Christian Church.^ 
But such oppression was contrary to the tolerant spirit of 
Islam, and to the teaching traditionally ascribed to the 
Prophet ; ^ and the fanatical party tried in vain to enforce 

1 Von Kremer (3), p. 246. ^ Muir (i), pp. 508, 516-17. 

* Mari b. Sulayman, p. 79 sq. Saliba b. Yuhanna, p. 71. 

* Gottheil, p. 364 sqq. * Mari b. Sulayman, p. 114 (U. 14-16). 

^ This tradition appears in several forms, e.g." Whoever wrongs one with 
whom a compact has been made (i. e. a dhimmi) and lays on him a burden 
beyond his strength, I will be his accuser." (Baladhuri, p. 162, tin.) 
(Yahya b. Adam, p. 54 (fin), adds the words, " till the day of judgment.") 
" Whoever does violence to a dhimmi who has paid his jizyah and evidenced 
his submission — his enemy am I." ( al-Ghaba, quoted by Goldziher, 
in the Jewish Encyclopaedia, vol. vi. p. 655.) The Christian historian 
al-Makin (p. 11) gives, " Whoever torments the dhimmis. torments me." 


the persistent execution of these oppressive measures for 
the humihation of the non-Mushm population. " The 
' ulama ' (i. e. the learned, the clergy) consider this state of 
things ; they weep and groan in silence, while the princes 
who had the power of putting down these criminal abuses 
only shut their eyes to them." ^ The rules that a fanatical 
priesthood may la}' down for the repression of unbelievers 
cannot always be taken as a criterion of the practice of civil 
governments : it is failure to realise this fact that has 
rendered possible the highly-coloured pictures of the suffer- 
ings of the Christians under Muhammadan rule, drawn by 
writers who have assumed that the prescriptions of certain 
Muslim theologians represented an invariable practice. Such 
outbursts of persecution seem in some cases to have been 
excited by the alleged abuse of their position by those 
Christians who held high posts in the service of the govern- 
ment ; they aroused considerable hostility of feeling towards 
themselves by their oppression of the Mushms, it being said 
that they took advantage of their high position to plunder 
and annoy the faithful, treating them with great harshness 
and rudeness and despoiling them of their lands and money. 
Such complaints were laid before the caliphs al-Mansiir 
(754-775), al-Mahdi (775-785)- al-Ma'mun (813-833), al- 
Mutawakkil (847-861), al-Muqtadir (908-932), and many 
of their successors. ^ They also incurred the odium of many 
Muhammadans by acting as the spies of the 'Abbasid dynasty 
and hunting down the adherents of the displaced Umayyad 
family.^ At a later period, during the time of the Crusades 
they were accused of treasonable correspondence with the 
Crusaders * and brought on themselves severe restrictive 
measures which cannot justly be described as religious 

In proportion as the lot of the conquered peoples became 
harder to bear, the more irresistible was the temptation to 
free themselves from their miseries, by the words, " There 
is no god but God : Muhammad is the Apostle of God." 

1 Journal Asiatique, IV""i; seric, tome xix. p. 109. (Paris, 1852.) See 
also R. Gottheil : A Fetwa on the appointment of Dhimmis to office. 
(Zeitschrift fiir Assyriologie, vol. xxvi. p. 203 sqq.) 

* Belin, pp. 435-40, 442, 44S, 456, 459-61, 479-80. 

» Id. p. 435. n. 2. * Id. p. 478. 


When the state was in need of money — as was increasingly 
the case — the subject races were more and more burdened 
with taxes, so that the condition of the non-Mushms was 
constantly growing more unendurable, and conversions to 
Islam increased in the same proportion. The dreary record 
of scandals, with which the pages of the Christian historians 
of this later period are filled, would suggest that the 
Christian Churches had failed to develop a moral fibre strong 
enough to endure the stress of adverse conditions, and 
when persecution came, the reason for the defection that 
followed might — as the historian of the Nestorian Church 
suggests 1 — be sought for in the prevailing negligence in 
the performance of religious duties and the evil life of the 

Further causes that contributed to the decrease of the 
Christian population may be found in the fact that the 
children of the numerous Christian captive women who 
were carried off to the harems of the Muslims had to be 
brought up in the religion of their fathers, and in the fre- 
quent temptation that was offered to the Christian slave 
by an indulgent master, of purchasing his freedom at the 
price of conversion to Islam. But of any organised attempt 
to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim popu- 
lation, or of any systematic persecution intended to stamp 
out the Christian religion, we hear nothing. Had the 
caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action, the}^ might 
have swept awa}^ Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and 
Isabella drove Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV made 
Protestantism penal in France, or the Jews were kept out 
of England for 350 years. The Eastern Churches in Asia 
were entirely cut off from communion with the rest of 
Christendom, throughout which no one would have been 
found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical com- 
munions. So that the very survival of these Churches 
to the present day is a strong proof of the generally 

^ Mari b. Sulayman (p. 115, 11. 1-2) offers this explanation of the defec- 
tions that followed the persecution towards the close of the tenth century. 

?— ^'3 vOv^^i"> ' ^^ cr'^'J' Ji^ "^3 J-«»' 0^3 J^:*^ ^^Ai. ^,,^1^ 

^Jki^t O^J^ ?i.*-3lj -»jj^l jj A-i;X)l Ojf^ 


tolerant attitude of the Muhammadan governments towards 

Of the ancient Churches in Western Asia at the time of 
the Muhammadan conquest, there still survive about 150,000 
Nestorians,2 a.nd their number would have been larger but 
for the proselytising efforts of other Christian Churches; 
the Chaldees who have submitted to the Church of Rome 
number 70,000, in 1898 the Nestorian Bishop Mar Jonan, 
with several of the clergy and 15,000 Nestorians were re- 
ceived into the Orthodox Russian Church ; and numbers of 
Nestorians have also become Protestants. ^ The Jacobite 
Patriarch of Antioch exercises jurisdiction over about 
80,000 members of this ancient Church, while 25,000 families 
of Uniat Jacobites obey the Syrian Catholic Patriarch.* 
Belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church, there are 28,836 
famihes under the Patriarch of Antioch and more than 
15,000 persons under the Patriarch of Jerusalem,^ while 
the Melchites or Greek-Catholics number about 130,000." 
The Maronite Church, which has been in union with the 
Roman Catholic Church since the year 1182, has a following 
of 300,000.' 

The marvel is that these isolated and scattered com- 
munities should have survived so long, exposed as they 
have been to the ravages of war, pestilence and famine,^ 
living in a country that was for centuries a continual battle- 
field, overrun by Turks, Mongols and Crusaders,' it being 

^ The Caliph of Egypt, al-Hakim (a.d. 996-1020), did in fact order all 
the Jews and Christians to leave Egypt and emigrate into the Byzantine 
territory, but yielded to their entreaties to revoke his orders. (Maqrizi (i), 
p. 91.) It would have been quite possible, however, for him to have 
enforced its execution as it would have been for the ferocious Salim I 
(151 2-1520), who with the design of putting an end to all religious differ- 
ences in his dominions caused 40,000 Shi'ahs to be massacred, to have com- 
pleted this politic scheme by the extermination of the Christians also. 
But in allowing himself to be dissuaded from this design, he most certainly 
acted in accordance with the general policy adopted by Muhammadan 
rulers towards their Christian subjects. (Finlay, vol. v. pp. 29-30.) 

^ Silbernagl, p. 268. ' Id. p. 354. * Id. pp. 307, 360. 

6 Id. p. 25-6. B Id. p. 335. ' Id. p. 384. 

** See A. von Kremer (i), vol. ii. pp. 490-2. 

* The sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 may be taken 
as a type of the treatment that the Eastern Christians met with at the 
hands of the Latins. Barhebraeus complains that the monastery of Harran 
was sacked and plundered by Count Goscelin, Lord of Emessa, in 1184, 
as though he had been a Saracen or a Turk. (Barhebraeus (i), vol. ii, 
pp. 506-8.) 


further remembered that they were forbidden by the 
Muhammadan law to make good this decay of their numbers 
by proselytising efforts — if indeed they had cared to do so, 
for they seem (with the exception of the Nestorians) even 
before the Muhammadan conquest, to have lost that mission- 
ary spirit, without which, as history abundantly shows, no 
healthy hfe is possible in a Christian Church. It has also 
been suggested that the monastic ideal of continence so wide- 
spread in the East, and the Christian practice of monogamy, 
together with the sense of insecurity and their servile con- 
dition, may have acted as checks on the growth of the 
Christian population.^ 

Of the details of conversion to Islam we have hardly any 
information. At the time of the first occupation of their 
country by the Arabs, the Christians appear to have gone 
over to Islam in very large numbers. Some idea of the 
extent of these early conversions in 'Iraq for example may 
be formed from the fact that the income from taxation in 
the reign of 'Umar was from loo to 120 million dirhams, 
while in the reign of 'Abd al-Malik, about fifty years later, 
it had sunk to forty milhons : while this fall in the revenue 
is largely attributable to the devastation caused by wars 
and insurrections, still it was chiefly due to the fact that 
large numbers of the population had become Muhammadan 
and consequently could no longer be called upon to pay the 
capitation-tax. 2 

This same period witnesses the conversion of large numbers 
of the Christians of Hiurasan, as we learn from a letter of 
a contemporary ecclesiastic, the Nestorian Patriarch Isho'- 
yabh III, addressed to Simeon, the Metropohtan of Rev- 
Ardashlr and Primate of Persia. We possess so very few 
Christian documents of the first century of the Hijrah, 
and this letter bears such striking testimony to the peaceful 
character of the spread of the new faith, and has moreover 
been so little noticed by modern historians — that it may well 
be quoted here at length. " Where are thy sons, O father 
bereft of sons ? Where is that great people of Merv, who 
though they beheld neither sword, nor fire or tortures, capti- 

^ H. H. Milnian, vol. ii. p. 218. 
* A. von Kremer (i), vol. i. p. 172. 


vated only by love for a moiety of their goods, have turned 
aside, like fools, from the true path and rushed headlong 
into the pit of faithlessness — into everlasting destruction, 
and have utterly been brought to nought, while two priests 
only (priests at least in name), have, like brands snatched 
from the burning, escaped the devouring flames of infidelity. 
Alas, alas ! Out of so many thousands who bore the name 
of Christians, not even one single victim was consecrated 
unto God by the shedding of his blood for the true faith. 
Where, too, are the sanctuaries of Kirman and all Persia ? 
it is not the coming of Satan or the mandates of the kings 
of the earth or the orders of governors of provinces that have 
laid them waste and in ruins— but the feeble breath of one 
contemptible little demon, who was not deemed worthy of 
the honour of demons by those demons who sent him on his 
errand, nor was endowed by Satan the seducer with the 
power of diabolical deceit, that he might display it in your 
land ; but merely by the nod of his command he has thrown 
down all the churches of your Persia. . . . And the Arabs, 
to whom God at this time has given the empire of the world, 
behold, they are among you, as ye know well : and yet 
they attack not the Christian faith, but, on the contrary, 
they favour our religion, do honour to our priests and the 
saints of the Lord, and confer benefits on churches and 
monasteries. Why then have your people of Merv aban- 
doned their faith for the sake of these Arabs ? and that, too, 
when the Arabs, as the people of Merv themselves declare, 
have not compelled them to leave their own religion but 
suffered them to keep it safe and undefiled if they gave up 
only a moiety of their goods. But forsaking the faith which 
brings eternal salvation, they clung to a moiety of the goods 
of this fleeting world : that faith which whole nations have 
purchased and even to this day do purchase by the shedding 
of their blood and gain thereby the inheritance of eternal 
life, your people of Merv were \villing to barter for a moiety 
of their goods — and even less." ^ The reign of the caliph 
'Umar II (a.d. 717-720) particularly was marked with very 
extensive conversions : he organised a zealous missionary 
movement and offered every kind of inducement to the 

^ Assemani, torn. iii. Pars Prima, pp. 130-1. 


conquered peoples to accept Islam, even making them 
grants of money ; on one occasion he is said to have given 
a Christian military officer the sum of 1000 dinars to induce 
him to accept Islam. 1 He instructed the governors of the 
provinces to invite the dhimmis to the Muslim faith, and 
al-Jarrah b. 'Abd Allah, governor of Khurasan, is said to 
have converted about 4000 persons. ^ He is even said to 
have written a letter to the Byzantine Emperor, Leo III, 
urging on him the acceptance of the faith of Islam. ^ He 
abrogated the decree passed in a.d. 700 for the purpose 
of arresting the impoverishment of the treasury, according 
to which the convert to Islam was not released from the 
capitation-tax, but was compelled to continue to pay it as 
before ; even though the dhimmi apostatised the very day 
before his yearly payment of the jizyah was due or while 
his contribution was actually being weighed in the scales, 
it was to be remitted to the new convert.* He no longer 
exacted the kharaj from the Muhammadan owners of landed 
property, and imposed upon them the far lighter burden of 
a tithe. These measures, though financially most ruinous, 
were eminently successful in the way the pious-minded caliph 
desired they should be, and enormous numbers hastened to 
enrol themselves among the Muslims.^ 

It must not, however, be supposed that such worldly 
considerations were the onh- influences at work in the 
conversion of the Christians to Islam. The controversial 
works of St. John of Damascus, of the same century, give 
us glimpses of the zealous Muslim striving to undermine by 
his arguments the foundations of the Christian faith. The 
very dialogue form into which these treatises are thrown, and 
the frequent repetition of such phrases as " If the Saracen 
asks you," — " If the Saracen says . . . then tell him "... 
— give them an air of vraisemhlance and make them appear 
as if they were intended to provide the Christians with ready 
answers to the numerous objections which their Muslim 
neighbours brought against the Christian creed. ^ That 
the aggressive attitude of the Muhammadan disputant is 

1 Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, vol. v. p. 258. 2 jj. p. 285. 

^ Mahbub al-ManbijI, p. 358 (11. 2-3). 

* Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, vol. v. p. 262. ^ August Miiller, vol. i. p. 440. 

* Migne : Patr. Gr., torn. 96, pp. 1336-40. 


most prominently brought forward in these dialogues is 
only what might be expected, it being no part of this great 
theologian's purpose to enshrine in his writings an apology 
for Islam. His pupil, Bishop Theodore Abu Qurrah, also 
wrote several controversial dialogues ^ with Muhammadans, 
in which the disputants range over all the points of dispute 
between the two faiths, the Muslim as before being the first 
to take up the cudgels, and enabling us to form some slight 
idea of the activity with which the cause of Islam was prose- 
cuted at this period. " The thoughts of the Agarenes," says 
the bishop, " and all their zeal, are directed towards the 
denial of the divinity of God the Word, and they strain every 
effort to this end." ^ The Nestorian Patriarch, Timotheus, • 
used to hold discussions on religious matters in the presence 
of the caliphs, al-Hadi and Hariin al-Rashid, and embodied 
them in a work that is now lost.^ Timotheus had secured 
his election to the patriarchate in the face of the active 
opposition of many of the most powerful ecclesiastics of his 
own Church; among these was Joseph, the metropolitan of 
Merv, who intrigued against him with the caliph, al-Mahdl 
(775-785), but was persuaded by the caliph to accept Islam 
and was rewarded for his apostasy with rich presents and 
an official appointment in Basrah.* 

These details from the first two centuries of the Hijrah 
are meagre in the extreme and rather suggest the existence 
of proselytising efforts than furnish definite facts. The 
earliest document of a distinctly missionary character which 
has come down to us, would seem to date from the reign of 
al-Ma'miin (813-833), and takes the form of a letter ^ written 
by a cousin of the caliph to a Christian Arab of noble birth 
and of considerable distinction at the court, and held in 
high esteem by al-Ma'mun himself. In this letter he begs 
his friend to embrace Islam, in terms of affectionate appeal 
and in language that strikingly illustrates the tolerant 
attitude of the Muslims towards the Christian Church at 
this period. This letter occupies an almost unique place 
in the early history of the propagation of Islam, and has 

1 Migne : Patr. Gr., torn. 97, pp. 1528-9, 1548-61. 
- Id. p. 1557. ' 'Amr b. Mattai, p. 65. * Id. p. 72. 

* Risalah 'Abd Allah b. Isma'il al-Hashimi ila 'Abd al-Masih b. Ishaq 
al-Kindi, pp. 1-37. (London, 1885.) 


on this account been given in full in an appendix.^ In the 
same work we have a report of a speech made by the caliph 
at an assembly of his nobles, in which he speaks in tones of 
the strongest contempt of those who had become Muham- 
madans merely out of worldly and selfish motives, and 
compares them to the Hypocrites who while pretending to 
be friends of the Prophet, in secret plotted against his life. 
But just as the Prophet returned good for evil, so the caliph 
resolves to treat these persons with courtesy and forbearance 
until God should decide between them.^ The record of this 
complaint on the part of the caliph is interesting as indi- 
cating that disinterested and genuine conviction was 
expected and looked for in the new convert to Islam, and 
that the discovery of self-seeking and unworthy motives 
drew upon him the severest censure. 

Al-Ma'mun himself was very zealous in his efforts to 
spread the faith of Islam, and sent invitations to unbe- 
lievers even in the most distant parts of his dominions, 
such as Transoxania and Far|^anah.^ At the same time 
he did not abuse his royal power, by attempting to force 
his own faith upon others : when a certain YazdanbaWit, 
a leader of the Manichaean sect, came on a visit to Baghdad * 
and held a disputation with the Muslim theologians, in which 
he was utterly silenced, the caliph tried to induce him to 
embrace Islam. But Yazdanbakht refused, saying, " Com- 
mander of the faithful, your advice is heard and your words 
have been listened to ; but you are one of those who do not 
force men to abandon their religion." So far from resenting 
the ill-success of his efforts, the caliph furnished him with 
a bodyguard, that he might not be exposed to insult from 
the fanatical populace.^ 

^ Appendix I. For an account of Muslim controversial literature, see 
Appendix II. 

^ Kindl, pp. 111-13. ^ Ealadhuri. pp. 430. 

* It is very probable that the occasion of this visit of Yazdanbakht to 
Ba gh dad was the summoning of a great assembly of the leaders of all the 
religious bodies of the period, by al-Ma'mun, when it had come to his ears 
that the enemies of Islam declared that it owed its success to the sword 
and not to the power of argument : in this meeting, the Muslim doctors 
defended their religion against this imputation, and the unbelievers arc 
said to have acknowledged that the Muslims had satisfactorily proved 
their point. (Ahmad b. Yahya b. al-Murtada : Al-munyah wa'1-amal fl 
sharh kitab al-milal wa'1-nihal. British Museum, Or. 3937, fol. 53 (b), 
11. 9-1 1.) ' Kitab al-Fihrist, vol. i. p. 338. 


Some scanty references are made by Christian historians 
to cases of ecclesiastical dignitaries who became Muham- 
madans, e. g, George, Bishop of Bahrayn, about the middle 
of the ninth century, having been deposed from his office 
for some ecclesiastical offence, exchanged the Christian 
faith for that of Islam, ^ and the conversion of a brother 
of Gabriel, metropolitan of Ears about the middle of the 
tenth century, only receives mention because the fact of 
his having become a Muslim was alleged as disqualifying 
Gabriel for election to the patriarchate of the Nestorian 
church. 2 

In the early part of the same century, Theodore, the 
Nestorian Bishop of Beth Garmai, became a Muslim, and 
there is no mention of any force or compulsion by the ecclesi- 
astical historian ^ who records the fact, as there undoubtedly 
would have been, had such existed. Some years later 
(between a.d. 962 and 979), Philoxenos, a Jacobite Bishop 
of Adharbayjan. also became a Muslim,'* and in the following 
century, in 1016, Ignatius,^ the Jacobite Metropolitan of 
Takrit, who had held this office for twenty-five years, set 
out for Baghdad and embraced Islam in the presence of the 
caliph al-Qadir, taking the name of Abu Muslim.^ It 
would be exceedingly interesting if an Apologia pro Vita 
Sua had survived to reveal to us the religious development 
that took place in the mind of either of these converts. 
The Christian chronicler hints at immorality in the last 
three cases, but such an accusation uncorroborated by any 
further evidence is open to suspicion,' much as it would be 

1 Barhebraeus (i), vol. iii. p. 194. 

* Mari b. Sulaynian, p. loi (11. 3-4). 

^ Barhebraeus (i), vol. iii. p. 230. * Id., (i), vol. iii. p. 248. 

^ All the Jacobite Patriarchs assumed the name of Ignatius; before his 
consecration he was called Mark bar QiqI. 

•^ Barhebraeus (i), vol. iii. pp. 288-90. Elias of Nisibis, pp. 153-4. He 
returned to the Christian faith, however, before his death, which took 
place about twenty years later. Two similar cases are recorded in the 
annals of the Jacobite Patriarchs of Antioch in the sixteenth century : of 
these one, named Joshua, became a Muhammadan in 1517, but afterwards 
recanting fled to Cyprus (at that time in the hands of the Venetians), 
where prostrate at the door of a church in penitential humility he suffered 
all who went in or out to tread over his body ; the other, Ni'mat Allah 
(flor. 1560), having abjured Christianity for Islam, sought absolution of 
Pope Gregory XIII in Rome. (Barhebraeus (i), vol. ii. pp. 847-8.) 

' In fact Elias of Nisibis, the contemporary chronicler of the conversion 
of the Jacobite Patriarch, makes no mention of .such a failing, nor does 
Mari b. Sulayman (pp. 1 15-16), the historian of the rival Nestorian Church. 


if brought forward by a Roman Catholic when recording 
the conversion of a priest of his own communion to the 
Protestant faith. It is doubtless owing to their exalted 
position in the Church that the conversion of these prominent 
ecclesiastics of two hostile Christian sects has been handed 
down to us, while that of more obscure individuals has not 
been recorded. As Barhebraeus brings his ecclesiastical 
chronicle nearer to his own time, he gives fuller details of the 
career of such converts, e. g. in recording the public lapse 
of some of the Jacobite bishops, in the middle of the twelfth 
century he makes particular mention of Aaron, bishop of a 
town in Khurasan, as having become a Muhammadan after 
having been convicted of some moral fault ; repenting of 
this change, he wished to regain his episcopal status, and 
when this was refused him, went to Constantinople and 
abjured the Monophysite doctrines of the Jacobite Church; 
then apparently dissatisfied with the reception he received 
in Constantinople, he returned to the Jacobite Patriarch, 
but a second time went over to Islam " without any reason " ; 
then repenting again, he finally ended his days among the 
Maronites of Mount Lebanon.^ A contemporary of Bar- 
hebraeus, in the middle of the thirteenth century — Daniel, 
Bishop of Khabur — who is said to have been proficient in 
secular learning, sought to be appointed to the diocese of 
Aleppo, but disappointed in this ambition, he abandoned 
the Christian faith and to the grief and shame of all Christian 
people " became a Muslim ; but God (praise be to His 
grace !) soon consoled his afflicted people and took away the 
shame from the redeemed, the redeemed of the Lord ; for a 
few months later that unhappy wretch died miserably in a 
caravanserai ; his name perished, he was taken away out of 
our midst, and no man knoweth his abiding place." ^ 

But that these conversions were not merely isolated 
instances we have the valuable evidence of Jacques de Vitry, 
Bishop of Acre (1216-1225), who thus speaks of the Eastern 
Church from his experience of it in the Holy Land : — 

though he accuses him of plundering the sacred vessels and ornaments of 
the churches. As Wright (Syriac lliterature, p. 192) says of Joseph of 
Merv, " We need not believe all the evil that Barhebrseus tells us of this 
unhappy man." 

i Barhebrseus (i), vol, ii, p. 518. 2 Id. vol. ii, p. 712 sq. 


" Weakened and lamentably ensnared, nay rather grievously 
wounded, by the lying persuasions of the false prophet and 
by the allurements of carnal pleasure, she hath sunk down, 
and she that was brought up in scarlet, hath embraced 
dunghills." ^ 

So far the Christian Churches that have been described as 
coming within the sphere of Muhammadan influence, have 
been the Orthodox Eastern Church and the heretical com- 
munions that had sprung out of it. But with the close of 
the eleventh century a fresh element was added to the 
Christian population of Syria and Palestine, in the large 
bodies of Crusaders of the Latin rite who settled in the 
kingdom of Jerusalem and the other states founded by the 
Crusaders, which maintained a precarious existence for 
nearly two centuries. During this period, occasional con- 
versions to Islam were made from among these foreign 
immigrants. In the first Crusade, for example, a body of 
Germans and Lombards under the command of a certain 
knight, named Rainaud, had separated themselves from 
the main body and were besieged in a castle by the Saljiiq 
Sultan, Arslan ; on pretence of making a sortie, Rainaud and 
his personal followers abandoned their unfortunate com- 
panions and went over to the Turks, among whom they 
embraced Islam. ^ 

The history of the ill-fated second Crusade presents us 
with a very remarkable incident of a similar character. The 
story, as told by Odo of Deuil, a monk of St. Denis, who, 
in the capacity of private chaplain to Louis VII, accompanied 
him on this Crusade and wrote a graphic account of it, runs as 
follows. While endeavouring to make their way overland 
through Asia Minor to Jerusalem the Crusaders sustained a 
disastrous defeat at the hands of the Turks in the mountain- 
passes of Phrygia (a.d. 1148), and with difficulty reached 
the seaport town of Attaha. Here, all who could afford 
to satisfy the exorbitant demands of the Greek merchants, 
took ship for Antioch ; while the sick and wounded and the 
mass of the pilgrims were left behind at the mercy of their 
treacherous allies, the Greeks, who received five hundred 

^ Historia Orientalis, C. 15 (p. 45). 

2 Pe Guignes, tome ii. (Seconde Partie), p. 15. 


marks from Louis, on condition that they provided an 
escort for the pilgrims and took care of the sick until they 
were strong enough to be sent on after the others. But no 
sooner had the army left, than the Greeks informed the 
Turks of the helpless condition of the pilgrims, and quietly 
looked on while famine, disease and the arrows of the enemy 
carried havoc and destruction through the camp of these 
unfortunates. Driven to desperation, a party of three or 
four thousand attempted to escape, but were surrounded 
and cut to pieces by the Turks, who now pressed on to the 
camp to follow up their victory. The situation of the 
survivors would have been utterly hopeless, had not the 
sight of their misery melted the hearts of the Muhammadans 
to pit3^ They tended the sick and relieved the poor and 
starving with open-handed liberality. Some even bought 
up the French money which the Greeks had got out of the 
pilgrims by force or cunning, and lavishly distributed it 
among the needy. So great was the contrast between the 
kind treatment the pilgrims received from the unbelievers 
and the cruelty of their fellow-Christians, the Greeks, who 
imposed forced labour upon them, beat them and robbed 
them of what little they had left, that many of them volun- 
tarily embraced the faith of their deliverers. As the old 
chronicler says : " Avoiding their co-religionists who had 
been so cruel to them, they went in safety among the infidels 
who had compassion upon them, and, as we heard, more 
than three thousand joined themselves to the Turks when 
they retired. Oh, kindness more cruel than all treachery ! 
They gave them bread but robbed them of their faith, though 
it is certain that contented with the services they performed, 
they compelled no one among them to renounce his 
religion." ^ 

The increasing intercourse between Christians and Muslims, 
the growing appreciation on the part of the Crusaders 
of the virtues of their opponents, which so strikingly dis- 

^ Odo de Diogilo. (De Ludovici vii. Itinere. Migne, Patr. Lat., torn, 
cxcv. p. 1243.) " Vitantes igitur sibi crudeles socios fidei, inter infideles 
sibi compatientes ibant securi, et sicut audivimus plusquam tria millia 
iuvenum sunt illis recedentibus sociati. O pietas omni proditione crude- 
lior I Dantes panem fidem toUebant, quamvis certum sit quia, contenti 
servitio, ncmincm negare cogebant." 


tinguishes the later from the earHer chroniclers of the 
Crusades,^ the numerous imitations of Oriental manners 
and ways of life by the Franks settled in the Holy Land, 
did not fail to exercise a corresponding influence on religious 
opinions. One of the most remarkable features of this 
influence is the tolerant attitude of many of the Christian 
Knights towards the faith of Islam — an attitude of mind 
that was most vehemently denounced by the Church. When 
Usama b. Munqidh, a Syrian Amir of the twelfth century, 
visited Jerusalem, during a period of truce, the Knights 
Templar, who had occupied the Masjid al-Aqsa, assigned to 
him a small chapel adjoining it, for him to say his prayers in, 
and they strongly resented the interference with the devo- 
tions of their guest on the part of a newly-arrived Crusader, 
who took this new departure in the direction of religious 
freedom in very bad part.- It would indeed have been 
strange if religious questions had not formed a topic of dis- 
cussion on the many occasions when the Crusaders and the 
Muslims met together on a friendly footing, during the 
frequent truces, especially when it was religion itself that 
had brought the Crusaders into the Holy Land and set them 
upon these constant wars. When even Christian theo- 
logians were led by their personal intercourse with the 
Muslims to form a juster estimate of their religion, and 
contact with new modes of thought was unsettling the 
minds of men and giving rise to a swarm of heresies, it is 
not surprising that many should have been drawn into the 
pale of Islam. ^ The renegades in the twelfth century were 
in sufficient numbers to be noticed in the statute books of 
the Crusaders, the so-called Assises of Jerusalem, according 
to which, in certain cases, their bail was not accepted.* 

It would be interesting to discover who were the Muslims 
who busied themselves in winning these converts to Islam, 
but they seem to have left no record of their labours. We 
know, however, that they had at their head the great Saladin 
himself, who is described by his biographer as setting before 

^ Guizot : Histoire de la civilisation en Europe, p. 234. (Paris, 1882.) 
2 Usama b. Munqidh, p. 99. 
^ Prutz, pp. 266-7. 

•* Assises de la Cour des Bourgeois. (Recueil des historiens des Croisades, 
Assises de Jerusalem, tome ii, p. 325.) 


his Christian guest the beauties of Islam and urging him to 
embrace it.^ 

The heroic hfe and character of Saladin seems to 
have exercised an especial fascination on the minds of the 
Christians of his time ; some even of the Christian knights 
were so strongly attracted towards him that they aban- 
doned the Christian faith and their own people and joined 
themselves to the Muslims ; such was the case, for example, 
with a certain English Templar, named Robert of St. Albans, 
who in A.D. 1185 gave up Christianity for Islam and after- 
wards married a grand-daughter of Saladin. ^ Two years 
later, Saladin invaded Palestine and utterly defeated the 
Christian army in the battle of Hittin, Guy, king of Jeru- 
salem, being among the prisoners. On the eve of the 
battle, six of his knights, " possessed with a devilish spirit," 
deserted the king and escaped into the camp of Saladin, 
where of their own accord they became Saracens. ^ At the 
same time Saladin seems to have had an understanding with 
Raymund III, Count of Tripoli, according to which he was 
to induce his followers to abandon the Christian faith and 
go over to the Muslims ; but the sudden death of the Count 
effectually put a stop to the execution of this scheme.* 

The fall of Jerusalem and the successes of Saladin in the 
Holy Land stirred up Europe to undertake the third Crusade, 
the chief incident of which was the siege of Acre (A.D.1189- 
1191). The fearful sufferings that the Christian army was 
exposed to, from famine and disease, drove many of them 
to desert and seek relief from the cravings of hunger in the 
Muslim camp. Of these deserters, many made their way 
back again after some time to the army of the Crusaders ; 
on the other hand, many elected to throw in their lot with 
the Muslims ; some, taking service under their former 
enemies, still remained true to the Christian faith and (we 
are told) were well pleased with their new masters, while 
others embracing Islam became good Mushms.^ The con- 
version of these deserters is recorded also by the chronicler 
who accompanied Richard I upon this Crusade : — " Some 

^ Baha al-Din, p. 25. 2 Roger Hoveden, vol. ii. p. 307. 

^ Benedict of Peterborough, vol. ii. pp. 11-12. 

* Id., vol. ii. pp. 20-1. Roger Hoveden, vol. ii. pp. 316, 322. 

* Abu Shamah, p. 150. 


of our men (whose fate cannot be told or heard without 
grievous sorrow) yielding to the severity of the sore famine, 
in achieving the salvation of the body, incurred the damna- 
tion of their souls. For after the greater part of the affliction 
was past, they deserted and fled to the Turks : nor did they 
hesitate to become renegades ; in order that they might 
prolong their temporal life a little space, they purchased 
eternal death with horrid blasphemies. O baleful traffick- 
ing ! O shameful deed beyond all punishment ! foolish 
man likened unto the foolish beasts, while he flees from the 
death that must inevitably come soon, he shuns not the 
death unending." ^ 

From this time onwards references to renegades are not 
infrequently to be met with in the writings of those who 
travelled to the Holy Land and other countries of the East. 
The terms of the oath which was proposed to St. Louis by 
his Muhammadan captors when he was called upon to 
promise to pay the ransom imposed upon him (a.d. 1250), 
were suggested by certain whilom priests who had become 
Muslims ; ^ and while this business of pa5ang the ransom 
was still being carried on, another renegade, a Frenchman, 
born at Provins, came to bring a present to the king : he 
had accompanied King John of Jerusalem on his expedition 
against Damietta in 1219 and had remained in Egypt, 
married a Muhammadan wife and become a great lord in 
that country.^ The danger of the pilgrims to the Holy 
Land becoming converts to Islam was so clearly recognised 
at this time that in a " Remembrance," written about 1266 
by Amaury de la Roche, the master of the Knights Templar 
in France, he requests the Pope and the legates of France 
and Sicily to prevent the poor and the aged and those in- 
capable of bearing arms from crossing the sea to Palestine, 
for such persons either got killed or were taken prisoners by 
the Saracens or turned renegades.* Ludolf de Suchem, who 
travelled in the Holy Land from 1336 to 1341, speaks of 
three renegades he found at Hebron; they had come 
from the diocese of Minden and had been in the service of a 

^ Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Richardi, p. 131. (Chronicles 
and Memorials of the reign of Richard I. Edited by William Stubbs.) 
(London, 1864.) ^ Joinville, p. 238. 

2 Id. p. 2G2. * Mas Latrie (i), vol. ii. p. 72. 


Westphalian knight, who was held in high honour by the 
Soldan and other Muhammadan princes. ^ 

These scattered notices are no doubt significant of more 
extensive conversions of Christians to Islam, of which no 
record has come down to us : e. g. there were said to be 
about 25,000 renegades in the city of Cairo towards the close 
of the fifteenth century,^ and there must have been many 
also to be found in the cities of the Holy Land after the dis- 
appearance of the Latin princedoms of the East. But the 
Muhammadan historians of this period seem to have been 
too busily engaged in recording the exploits of princes and 
the vicissitudes of dynasties, to turn their attention to 
religious changes in the lives of obscure individuals ; and 
(as far as I have been able to discover) they as little notice 
the conversions of Christians to Islam as of those of their own 
co-religionists to Christianity. Consequently, we have to 
depend for our knowledge of both of these classes of events 
on Christian writers, who, while they give us detailed and 
sympathetic accounts of the latter, bear unwilling testimony 
to the existence of instances of the former and represent 
the motives of the renegades in the worst light possible. 
The possibility of any Christian becoming converted to 
Islam from honest conviction, probably never entered into 
the head of any of these writers, and even had such an idea 
occurred to them they would hardly have ventured to expose 
themselves to the thunders of ecclesiastical censure by 
giving open expression to it. 

As an example of the rare instances of such a conversion 
being recorded, the account may here be cited which Fiirer 
von Haimendorf, who was in Cairo in 1565, gives of the 
conversion of a German scholar who had studied in the 
University of Leipzig. " Sed dum nos hanc moram Cairi 
nectimus, accidit ut Justus quidam Stevenius Germanus 
Hamelensis qui in iisdem aedibus nobiscum habitaverat, fide 
Christianorum abnegata Turcarum religioni se initiandum 
atque circumcidendum obtulerit. Vir erat doctus, qui diu 
se Witebergae ac Lipsiae studiis operam dedisse saepe nobis 

^ Ludolf de Suchem, p. 71. 

* Lionardo Frescobaldi, quoted in the preface of Defremery and 
Sanguiiietti's edition of Ibn Batutah, vol. i. p. xl. 


narrabat : verum de hoc facto interrogatus, peculiarem 
nunc sibi Spiritum adesse ajebat, sine cujus instinctu nihil 
vel facere sibi, vel cogitare fas esset ; quae hominis apostasia 
nimium quantum animos nostros commovit, et ad fugam 
quasi excitavit. Eodem quoque die Judaeus quidam, qui 
paucis diebus ante rehgionem Mahumetanam amplexus 
fuerat, triumphah pompa per urbem circumducebatur ; quod 
idem cum Stevenio isto futurum esse, Janissarii quidam nobis 
affirmabant." ^ 

From the historical sources quoted above, we have as 
little information respecting the number of these converts 
as of the prosel3'tising efforts made to induce them to change 
their faith. A motive frequently assigned for going over 
to Islam is the desire to escape the death penalty by means 
of apostasy. European travellers make frequent mention 
of such cases. A late example of such an account may be 
selected, for the picturesqueness of its language, from the 
report of a Jesuit, who was in Cairo in 1627; he saw a Copt 
who, having allowed himself to be carried away " partly 
by passion and partly by the violence of an indiscreet zeal, 
had killed his brother with his own hand, in detestation of 
his having in a dastardly manner left Jesus Christ to embrace 
Mahometanism, in order to deliver himself from the vexation 
of the Turks. The poor man was at once seized in the heat 
of his crime, and he boldly confessed that the renegade, 
unworthy of being his brother, could only wipe out so black 
a spot by his blood. He was urged to abandon his faith in 
order to save his life," but he declared that he was resolved 
to die a Christian ; the cruel torments, however, inflicted on 
him by the executioners, weakened his resolution and he 
yielded at the last moment. " This disaster changed him 
in a moment from a confessor into a renegade, from a martyr 
into an apostate, from a saint into one of the damned, and 
from an angel into a veritable devil. He made the pro- 
fession of faith or rather of perfidy, after the manner of the 
Mahometans ... he was set at liberty, the liberty not of 
the sons of God, but of the sons of perdition." Later on, 
the reproaches of his conscience caused him again to recant 

* Christophori Fiireri ab Haimendorf Itinerarium iEgypti, p. 42. 
(Norimbcrgae, 1620.) 


and he was put to death by the Muhammadans for his 
apostasy. 1 

The monk Burchard,^ writing about 1283, a few years 
before the Crusaders were driven out of their last strong- 
holds and the Latin power in the East came utterly to an 
end — represents the Christian population as largel}^ out- 
numbering the Muslims throughout the whole of the Muham- 
madan world, the latter (except in Egypt and Arabia) 
forming not more than three or four per cent, of the whole 
population. This language is undoubtedly exaggerated 
and the good monk was certainly rash in assuming that 
what he observed in the cities of the Crusaders and of the 
kingdom of Little Armenia held good in other parts of the 
East. But his words may be certainly taken to indicate 
that during the period of the Crusades there had been no 
widespread conversion to Islam, and that when the Muham- 
madans resumed their sovereignty over the Holy Land, 
they extended the same toleration to the Christians as 
before, suffering them to " purchase peace and quiet " by 
the payment of the jizyah. The presumption is that the 
conversions that took place were of individual Christians, 
who were persuaded in their own minds before they took the 
final step. Instances have already been given of Christians 
who took service under Muhammadan masters, in the full 
enjoyment of their own faith, and the Assises of Jerusalem 
made a distinction between " those who have denied God 

^ Le Voyage en Ethiopie entrepris par le Pere Aymard Guerin. (Rabbath, 
pp. 17-18-) 

* " Notandum autem in rei veritate, licet quidam contrarium senciant, 
qui ea volunt asserere, que non viderunt, quod oriens totus ultra mare 
Yndiam et Ethiopiam nomen Christi coniitetur et predicat, pretcr solos 
Sarracenos et quosdam Turcomannos, qui in Cappadocia sedem habent, ita 
quod pro certo assero, sicut per memet ipsum vidi et ab aliis, quibus notum 
erat, audivi, quod semper in omni loco et regno preterquam in Egypto 
et Arabia, ubi plurimum habitant Sarraceni et alii Machometum sequentes, 
pro uno Sarraceno triginta vel amplius invenies Christianos. Verum 
tamen, quod Christiani omnes transmarini natione sunt orientales, qui 
licet sint Christiani, quia tamen usum armorum non habent multum, cum 
impugnantur a Sarracenis, Tartaris, vel aliis quibuscumque, subiciuntur 
eis et tributis pacem et quietem emunt, et Sarraceni sive alii, qui eis domi- 
nantur, balivos suos et exactores in terris illis ponunt. Et inde contigit, 
quod regnum illud dicitur esse Sarracenorum, cum tamen in rei veritate 
sunt omnes Christiani preter ipsos balivos et exactores et aliquos de familia 
ipsorum, sicut oculis meis vidi in Cilicia et Armenia minori, que est subdita 
dominio Tartarorum." (Burchardi de Monte Sion Dcscriptio Terra; 
Sanctae, p. go.) 


and follow another law " and " all those who have done 
armed service to the Saracens and other miscreants against 
the Christians for more than a year and a day." ^ 

The native Christians certainly preferred the rule of the 
Muhammadans to that of the Crusaders, ^ and when Jeru- 
salem fell finally and for ever into the hands of the Muslims 
(a.d. 1244), the Christian population of Palestine seems to 
have welcomed the new masters and to have submitted 
quietly and contentedly to their rule.^ 

This same sense of security of religious life under Muslim 
rule led many of the Christians of Asia Minor, also, about 
the same time, to welcome the advent of the Saljuq Turks 
as their deliverers from the hated Byzantine government, 
not only on account of its oppressive system of taxation, 
but also of the persecuting spirit of the Greek Church, which 
had with such cruelty crushed the heresies of the Paulicians 
and the Iconoclasts. In the reign of Michael VIII (1261- 
1282), the Turks were often invited to take possession of the 
smaller towns in the interior of Asia Minor by the inhabi- 
tants, that they might escape from the tyranny of the 
empire ; and both rich and poor often emigrated into Turkish 

Some account still remains to be given of two other 
Christian Churches of Western Asia, viz. the Armenian 
and the Georgian. Of the former it may be said that of 
all the Eastern Churches that have come under Muham- 
madan rule, the Armenian Church has probably given fewer 
of its members (in proportion to the size of the community) 
to swell the ranks of Islam, than any other. So in spite 
of the interest that attaches to the story of the struggle of 

1 Recueil des historiens des Croisades. (Assises de Jerusalem, tome i. 
p. 325.) - Prutz, pp. 146-7, 150. 

* The prelates of the Holy Land wrote as follows, in 1244, concerning 
the invasion of the Khwarizmians, whom Sultan Ayyub had called in to 
assist him in driving out the Crusaders : — " Per totam terram usque ad 
partes Nazareth et Saphet libere nullo resistente discurrunt, occupantes 
eandem, et inter se quasi propriam dividentes, per villas et cazalia Christia- 
norum legates et bajulos praeficiunt, suscipientes a rusticis redditus et 
tributa, quae Christianis praestare solebant, qui jam Christianis hostes 
effect! et rebelles dictis Corosminis universaliter adhaeserunt." (Matthei 
Parisiensis Chronica Majora, ed. H. R. Luard, vol. iv. p. 343.) (London, 

* Finlay, vol. iii. pp. 358-9. J. H. Krause: Die Byzantiner des Mittelalters, 
p. 276. (Halle, 1869.) 


this brave nation against overwhelming odds and of the 
fidehty with which it has clung to the Christian faith — 
through centuries of warfare and oppression, persecution 
and exile — it does not come within the scope of the present 
volume to do more than briefly indicate its connection with 
the history of the Muhammadans. The Armenian kingdom 
survived the shock of the Arab conquest, and in the ninth 
century rose to be a state of some importance and flourished 
during the decay of the caliphate of Bagdad, but in the 
eleventh century was overthrown by the Saljiiq Turks. A 
band of fugitives founded the kingdom of Lesser Armenia, 
but this too disappeared in the fourteenth century. The 
national life of the Armenian people still survived in spite 
of the loss of their independence, and, as was the case in 
Greece under the Turks, their religion and the national 
church served as the rallying point of their eager, undying 
patriotism. Though a certain number, under the pressure 
of cruel persecution, have embraced Islam, yet the bulk 
of the race has remained true to its ancient faith. As 
Ta vernier ^ rather unsympathetically remarks, " There may 
be some few Armenians, that embrace Mahometanism for 
worldly interest, but they are generally the most obstinate 
persons in the world, and most firm to their superstitious 

The Georgian Church (founded in the early part of the 
fourth century) was an offshoot from the Greek Church, 
with which she has always remained in communion, although 
from the middle of the sixth century the Patriarch or 
Katholikos of the Georgian Church declared himself inde- 
pendent. Torn asunder b}- internal discords and exposed to 
the successive attacks of Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Turks and 
Mongols, the history of this heroic warrior people is one 
of almost uninterrupted warfare against foreign foes and of 
fiercely contested feuds between native chiefs : the reigns 
of one or two powerful monarchs who secured for their 
subjects brief intervals of peace, serving only to bring out 
in more striking contrast the normally unsettled state of 
the country. The fierce independent spirit of the Georgians 
that could not brook a foreign rule has often exasperated well- 

^ Tavernier (i), p. 174. 


nigh to madness the fury of their Muhammadan neighbours, 
when they failed to impose upon them either their civil 
authority or their religion. It is this circumstance — that a 
change of faith implied loss of political independence — which 
explains in a great measure the fact that the Georgian 
Church inscribes the names of so many martyrs in her 
calendar, while the annals of the Greek Church during the 
same period have no such honoured roll to show. 

It was not until after Georgia had been overrun b}- the 
devastating armies of the Mongols, leaving ruined churches 
and monasteries and pyramids of human heads to mark the 
progress of their destroying hosts, and consequently the 
spiritual wants of the people had remained long unprovided 
for, owing to the decline in the numbers and learning of the 
clergy — that Christianity began to lose ground.^ Even 
among those who still remained Christian, some added to 
the sufferings of the clergy by plundering the property of 
the Church and appropriating to their own use the revenues 
of churches and monasteries, and thus hastened the decay of 
the Christian faith. ^ 

In 1400 the invasion of Timiir added a crowning horror to 
the sufferings of Georgia, and though for a brief period the 
rule of Alexander I (1414-1442) delivered the country from 
the foreign yoke and drove out all the Muhammadans — 
after his death it was again broken up into a number of petty 
princedoms, from which the Turks and the Persians wrested 
the last shreds of independence. But the Muhammadans 
always found Georgia to be a turbulent and rebellious 
possession, ever ready to break out into open revolt at the 
slightest opportunity. Both Turks and Persians sought 
to secure the allegiance of these troublesome subjects by 
means of conversion to Islam. After the fall of Con- 
stantinople and the increase of Turkish power in Asia 
Minor, the inhabitants of Akhaltsikhe and other districts 
to the west of it became Muhammadans.^ In 1579 two 
Georgian princes — brothers — came on an embassy to Con- 
stantinople with a large retinue of about two hundred 

^ Joselian, p. 125. All the Abkhazes, Djikhethes, Ossetes, Kabardes 
and Kisthethes fell away from the Christian faith about this time. 
- Id. p. 127. * Id. p. 143. 


persons : here the younger brother together with his attend- 
ants became a Musalman, in the hope (it was said) of thereby 
supplanting his elder brother. ^ At a rather later date, the 
conquests of the Turks brought some of the districts in the 
very centre of Georgia into their power, the inhabitants of 
which embraced the creed of the conquerors.'^ From this 
period Samtzkhe, the most western portion of Georgia, 
recognised the suzerainty of Turkey : its rulers and people 
were allowed to continue undisturbed in the Christian faith, 
but from 1625 the ruling d3masty became Muhammadan 
and many of the chiefs and the aristocracy followed their 

Christianity retained its hold upon the peasants much 
longer, but when the clergy of Samtzkhe refused allegiance 
to the Katholikos of Karthli, there ceased to be regular 
provision made for supplying the spiritual needs of the 
people : the nobles, even before their conversion, had taken 
to plundering the estates of the Church, and after becoming 
Musalmans they naturally ceased to assist it with their 
offerings, and the churches and monasteries falling into 
decay were replaced by mosques.^ 

The rest of Georgia had submitted to Persia, and when 
Tavernier visited this part of the countr3^ about the middle 
of the seventeenth century, he found it divided into two 
kingdoms, which were provinces of the Persian empire, and 
were governed by native Georgian princes who had to turn 
Muhammadan before being advanced to this dignity.^ One 
of the first of such princes was the Tsarevitch Constantine, 
son of King Alexander II of Kakheth, who had been brought 
up at the Persian court and had there embraced Islam, at 
the beginning of the seventeenth century. ^ The first 
Muhammadan king of Karthli, the Tsarevitch Rustam (1634- 
1658), had also been brought up in Persia, and he and his 
successors to the end of the century were all Muhammadans.^ 

Tavernier describes the Georgians as being very ignorant 
in matters of religion and the clergy as unlettered and 
vicious ; some of the heads of the Church actually sold the 

^ David Chytragus, p. 49. - Joselian, p. 157. 

' Brosset, 11^ partie, pe livraison, pp. 227-35. Description geographique 
dc la Georgie par le Tsarevitch Wakhoucht, p. 79. (St. Petersburg, 1842.) 
* The Six Voyages, p. 123. ^ Josehan, p. 149. « Id. pp. i6o-i. 


Christian boys and girls as slaves to the Turks and Persians.^ 
From this period there seems to have been a widespread 
apostasy, especially among the higher classes and those 
who sought to win the favour of the Persian court. ^ In 
1701 the occupant of the throne of Georgia, Wakhtang VI, 
was a Christian : for the first seven years of his reign he was 
a prisoner in Ispahan, where great efforts were made to 
induce him to become a Muhammadan ; when he declared 
that he preferred to lose his throne rather than purchase it 
at the price of apostasy, it is said that his younger brother, 
although he was the Patriarch of Georgia, offered to abandon 
Christianity and embrace Islam, if the crown were bestowed 
upon him, but though invested by the Persians with the 
royal power, the Georgians refused to accept him as their 
ruler, and drove him out of the kingdom.^ 

Towards the close of the eighteenth century, the king of 
Georgia placed his people under the protection of the 
Russian crown. Hitherto their intense patriotic feeling 
had helped to keep the Christian faith alive among them so 
long as their foreign invaders had been Musalmans, but now 
that the foreign power that sought to rob them of their 
independence was Christian, this same feeling operated in 
some of the districts north of the Caucasus to the advantage 
of Islam. In Daghistan a certain Darvlsh Mansiir en- 
deavoured to unite the different tribes of the Caucasus to 
oppose the Russians ; preaching the faith of Islam he 
succeeded in converting the princes and nobles of Ubichistan 
and Daghistan, who have remained faithful to Islam ever 
since; many of the Circassians, too, were converted b}^ his 
preaching, and preferred exile to submitting to the Russian 
rule.* But in 1791 he was taken prisoner, and in 1800 
Georgia was formally incorporated in the Russian empire. 

Darvlsh Mansur was not alone in his efforts to convert 
the Circassians. When the treaty of Kiichak-Qainarji in 
1774 had recognised the independence of the Crimea and 

^ Tavernicr (i), pp. 124, 126. He estimates the number of Muham- 
madans at about twelve thousand. (Id. p. 123.) 

* Brosset, II« partie, P" hvraison, pp. 85, 181. 

^ Documens originaux sur les relations diplomatiques de la Georgie 
avec la France vers la fin du regne de Louis XIV, recueillis par M. Brosset 
jeune. (J. A. 2""= serie, tome ix. (1832), pp. 197, 451.) 

* Mackenzie, p. 7. Garnett, p. 194. 


opened the Black Sea to Russian vessels, the Turkish govern- 
ment became alarmed at the prospect of a further movement 
of Russian domination along the eastern coast of the Black 
Sea and resolved to make an attempt to stir the Circassians 
to resistance. A Turkish officer, named Farah 'All, was 
sent in 1782 to establish a military colony at Anapa, near 
the outlet of the sea of Azov, and to enter into relations with 
the Circassian tribes. Farah 'All's first care was to seek the 
hand of a daughter of one of the Circassian beys, offering rich 
presents of arms, horses, etc., to her father; the marriage 
was celebrated with great pomp and ceremony, and Farah 
'All encouraged his soldiers to follow his example, by promis- 
ing to defray the expenses of their nuptials. The result was 
that a number of Circassian women joined the little colony 
and accepted the religion of their husbands, and with the 
zeal of new converts won over to Islam their fathers and 
brothers. An active movement of proselytism began, and 
the Circassians who came in contact with the Turkish colons- 
appear readily to have abandoned their pagan beliefs for the 
religion of the Qur'an, the mollas were kept busy in in- 
structing the new Muslims, and help had to be sought from 
Constantinople to deal with the increasing number of con- 
versions. ^ But the work of Farah 'AH was short-lived ; he 
died in 1785 and his tomb was reverenced as that of a saint, 
but his work perished with him. Anapa passed into the 
hands of the Russians in 1812, and when the resistance 
of the Circassians was finally overcome in 1864, more than 
half a million Circassian Muhammadans migrated into 
Turkish territory. 

Under Russian law conversions to any faith other than 
that of the Orthodox Church were illegal, and the further 
progress of Islam was stayed until the promulgation of the 
edict of toleration in 1905. One of the results of this in 
the Caucasus was a large accession to Islam from among the 
Abkhazes, who had long been nominal converts to Christi- 
anity, but now became Muhammadans in such numbers 
that the Orthodox clergy became alarmed and founded a 
special society for the distribution of religious tracts among 
them, in the hope of combating Muhammadan influences. ^ 

^ Barbier de Meynard, p. 45 sqq. ^ R. du M. M., VII, p. 320 (1909). 




Islam was first introduced into Africa by the Arab army 
that invaded Egypt under the command of 'Amr b. al-*As 
in A.D. 640. Three years later the withdrawal of the By- 
zantine troops abandoned the vast Christian population 
into the hands of the Muslim conquerors. The rapid suc- 
cess of the Arab invaders was largely due to the welcome 
they received from the native Christians, who hated the 
Byzantine rule not only for its oppressive administration, 
but also — and chiefly — on account of the bitterness of 
theological rancour. The Jacobites, who formed the 
majority of the Christian population, had been very roughly 
handled by the Orthodox adherents of the court and sub- 
jected to indignities that have not been forgotten by their 
children even to the present day.^ Some were tortured 
and then thrown into the sea ; many followed their Patriarch 
into exile to escape from the hands of their persecutors, 
while a large number disguised their real opinions under 
a pretended acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon.^ To 
these Copts, as the Jacobite Christians of Egypt are called, 
the Muhammadan conquest brought a freedom of religious 
life such as they had not enjoyed for a century. On pajmient 
of the tribute, 'Amr left them in undisturbed possession of 
their churches and guaranteed to them autonomy in all 
ecclesiastical matters, thus delivering them from the con- 
tinual interference that had been so grievous a burden under 

1 Amelineau, p. 3; Caetani, vol. iv. p. 81 sq. Justinian is said to have 
had 200,000 Copts put to death in the city of Alexandria, and the persecu- 
tions of his successors drove many to take refuge in the desert. (Wansleben : 
The Present State of Egypt, p. 11.) (London, 1678.) 

2 Renaudot, p. 161. Severus, p. 106. 


the previous rule ; he laid his hands on none of the property 
of the churches and committed no act of spoHation or pillage.^ 
In the early days of the Muhammadan rule then, the con- 
dition of the Copts seems to have been fairly tolerable, ^ 
and there is no evidence of their widespread apostasy to 
Islam being due to persecution or unjust pressure on the 
part of their new rulers. Even before the conquest was 
complete, while the capital, Alexandria, still held out, many 
of them went over to Islam, ^ and a few years later the 
example these had set was followed by many others.* In 
the reign of 'Uthman (a.d. 643-655), the revenue derived 
from Egypt amounted to twelve milhons; a few years 
later, in the reign of Mu'awiyah (661-679), it had fallen to 
five milhons owing to the enormous number of conversions : 
under 'Umar II (717-720) it fell still lower, so that the 
governor of Egypt ^ proposed that in future the converts 
should not be exempted from the payment of the capitation- 
tax, but this the pious caliph refused to allow, saying that 
God had sent Muhammad to call men to a knowledge of 
the truth and not to be a collector of taxes.^ 

But later rulers recognised that for fiscal reasons such a 
policy was ruinous to the state, and insisted on the converts 
continuing to pay taxes as before; there was, however, 
no continuity in such a poHcy, and individual governors 
acted in an arbitrary and irregular manner.' When Hafs b. 
al-Walid, who was governor of Egypt in a.d. 744, promised 
that all those who became Muslims would be exempted 

^ John, Jacobite bishop of Nikiu (second half of seventh century), p. 5S4. 
Caetani, vol. iv. pp. 515-16. 

* Bell, p. xxxvii. But the exactions and hardships that, according to 
Maqrizi, the Copts had to endure about seventy years after the conquest 
hardly allow us to extend this period so far as Von Ranke does : " Von 
Aegypten weiss man durch die bestimmtesten Zeugnisse, dass sich die 
Einwohner in den nachsten Jahrhunderten unter der arabischen Herrschaft 
in eincm ertraglichen Zustand befunden haben." (Weltgeschichte, vol. v. 
p. 153, 4th ed.) ,* John of Nikiu, p. 560. 

* Id. p. 585. " Or beaucoup des Egyptiens, qui etaient de faux Chretiens, 
renierent la sainte religion orthodoxe et le bapteme qui donne la vie, em- 
brasserent la religion des Musulmans, les ennemis de Dieu, et accept^rent 
la detestable doctrine de ce monstre, c'est-^-dire de Mahomet ; ils parta- 
gerent I'egarem.ent de ces idolatres et prirent les armes contre les Chretiens." 

* Qurra b. Sharik (governor of Egypt from 709 to 714), or his predecessor, 
appears to have insisted on the converts continuing to pay jizyah. (Becker 
Papyri Schott-Reinhardt, p. 18.) 

« Ibn Sa'd, Tabaqat, vol. v. p. 283. 

 Caetani^ vo). iv, p. 618; vol. v. pp. 384-5. 


from the payment of jizyah, as many as 24,000 Christians 
are reported to have accepted Islam. ^ A similar proclama- 
tion is said to have been made by al-Saffah, the first of the 
'Abbasid caliphs, soon after his accession in a.d. 750, for 
" he wrote to the whole of his dominions saying that ever}^ 
one who embraced his religion and prayed according to 
his fashion, should be quit of the jizyah, and many, both 
rich and poor, denied the faith of Christ by reason of the 
magnitude of the taxation and the burdens imposed upon 
them." ^ In fact many of the Christians of Egypt seem to 
have abandoned Christianity as lightly and as rapidly as, in 
the beginning of the fourth century, they had embraced it. 
Prior to that period, a very small section of the population 
of the valle}^ of the Nile was Christian, but the sufferings of 
the martyrs in the persecution of Diocletian, the stories of 
the miracles they performed, the national feeling excited 
by the sense of their opposition to the dictates of the 
foreign government,^ the assurance that a paradise of 
delights was opened to the martyr who died under the hands 
of his tormentors, — all these things stirred up an enthusiasm 
that resulted in an incredibl}^ rapid spread of the Christian 
faith. " Instead of being converted by preaching, as the 
other countries of the East were, Egypt embraced Christi- 
anity in a fit of wild enthusiasm, without any preaching, or 
instruction being given, with hardly any knowledge of the 
new religion beyond the name of Jesus, the Messiah, who 
bestowed a life of eternal happiness on all who confessed 
Him." 4 

In the seventh century Christianity had probably ver}' 
little hold on a great mass of the people of Egypt. The 
theological catchwords that their leaders made use of, 
to stir up in them feelings of hatred and opposition to the 
Byzantine government, could have been intelligible to a 
very few, and the rapid spread of Islam in the early days 
of the Arab occupation was probably due less to definite 
efforts to attract than to the inability of such a Christianity 
to retain. The theological basis for the existence of the 

* Severus, pp. 172-3. * Id. pp. 205-6. 

' " Sans aucun doute il y eut dans la multiplicite des martyrs une sorte 
de resistance natjonale cgntre les p;ouverneurs etrangers." (Amelinegu, 
p. 58,) i Ameljneau, pp. 57-8, 


Jacobites as a separate sect, the tenets that they had so 
long and at so great a cost struggled to maintain, were 
embodied in doctrines of the most abstruse and metaphysical 
character, and many doubtless turned in utter perplexity 
and weariness from the interminable controversies that 
raged around them, to a faith that was summed up in the 
simple, intelligible truth of the Unity of God and the mission 
of His Prophet, Muhammad. Even within the Coptic 
Church itself at a later period, we find evidence of a move- 
ment which, if not distinctly Muslim, was at least closely 
allied thereto, and in the absence of any separate ecclesi- 
astical organisation in which it might find expression, 
probably contributed to the increase of the converts to 
Islam. In the beginning of the twelfth century, there was 
in the monastery of St. Anthon}^ (near Itflh on the Nile), 
a monk named Baliitus, " learned in the doctrines of the 
Christian religion and the duties of the monastic life, and 
skilled in the rules of the canon-law. But Satan caught 
him in one of his nets ; for he began to hold opinions at 
variance with those taught by the Three Hundred and 
Eighteen (of Nicaea) ; and he corrupted the minds of many 
of those who had no knowledge or instruction in the Orthodox 
faith. He announced with his impure mouth, in his wicked 
discourses, that Christ our Lord — to Whom be glory — was 
like one of the prophets. He associated with the lowest 
among the followers of his religion, clothed as he was in the 
monastic habit. When he was questioned as to his religion 
and his creed, he professed himself a believer in the Unity 
of God. His doctrines prevailed during a period which 
ended in the year 839 of the Righteous Martyrs (a.d. 1123) ; 
then he died, and his memory was cut off for ever." ^ 

Further, a theory of the Christian life that found its 
highest expression in asceticism of the grossest type ^ could 
offer little attraction, in the face of the more human morality 
of Islam. 3 On account of the large numbers of Copts that 

^ Abu Salih, pp 163-4. ^ Amelineau, pp. 53-4, 69-70. 

^ Abu Salih gives an account of some monks who embraced the faith 
of the Prophet, and these are probably representative of a larger number 
of whom the historian has left no record, as lacking the peculiar circum- 
stances of loss to the monastery or of recantation that made such instances 
of interest to him (pp. 128, 142). 


from time to time have become Muhammadans, they have 
come to be considered by the followers of the Prophet as 
much more inclined to the faith of Islam than any other 
Christian sect, and though they have had to endure the 
most severe oppression and persecution on many occasions, 
yet the Copts that have been thus driven to abandon their 
faith are said to have been few in comparison with those 
who have changed their religion voluntarily,^ and even in 
the nineteenth century, when Egypt was said to be the most 
tolerant of all Muhammadan countries, there were yearly con- 
versions of the Copts to the Muslim faith. ^ Still, persecution 
and oppression have undoubtedly played a very large part 
in the reduction of the numbers of the Copts, and the story 
of the sufferings of the Jacobite Church of Egypt, — perse- 
cuted alike by their fellow Christians ^ and by the followers 
of the dominant faith, is a very sad one, and many abandoned 
the religion of their fathers in order to escape from burden- 
some taxes and unendurable indignities. The vast difference 
in this respect between their condition and that of the 
Christians of Syria, Palestine and Spain at the same period 
finds its explanation in the turbulent character of the Copts 
themselves. Their long struggle against the civil and 
theological despotism of Byzantium seems to have welded 
the zealots into a national party that could as little brook 
the foreign rule of the Arabs as, before, that of the Greeks. 
The rising of the Copts against their new masters in 646, 
when they drove the Arabs for a time out of Alexandria 
and opened the gates of the city to the Byzantine troops 
(who, however, treated the unfortunate Copts as enemies, 

^ Lane, pp. 546, 549. 

2 Liittke (i), vol. i. pp. 30, 35. Dr. Andrew Watson writes : " No year 
has passed during my residence of forty-four years in the Nile valley 
without my hearing of several instances of defection. The causes are, 
chiefly, the hope of worldly gain of various kinds, severe and continued 
persecution, exposure to the cruelty and rapacity of Moslem neighbours, 
and personal indignities as well as political disabilities of various kinds." 
(Islam in Egypt : Mohammedan World, p. 24.) 

* Severus, pp. 122, 126, 143. One of the very first occasions on which 
they had to complain of excessive taxation was when Menas, the Christian 
prefect of Lower Egypt, extorted from the city of Alexandria 32,057 
pieces of gold, instead of 22,000 which 'Amr had fixed as the amount to be 
levied. (John of Nikiu, p. 585.) Renaudot (p. 168) says that after the 
restoration of the Orthodox hierarchy, about seventy years after the 
Muhammadan conquest, the Copts suffered as much at its hands us a,t tht^ 
hg^nds of the ]\Iuha5m,ma,da,ns themselves. 


not having yet forgotten the welcome they had before given 
to the Muhammadan invaders), was the first of a long 
series of risings and insurrections/ — excited frequently 
by excessive taxation, — which exposed them to terrible 
reprisals, and caused the lot of the Jacobite Christians of 
Egypt to be harder to bear than that of any other Christian 
sect in this or other countries under Muhammadan rule. 
But the history of these events belongs rather to a history of 
Muhammadan persecution and intolerance than to the scope 
of the present work. It must not, however, be supposed 
that the condition of the Copts was invariably that of a 
persecuted sect ; on the contrary there were times when they 
rose to positions of great affluence and importance in the 
state. They filled the posts of secretaries and scribes in 
the government offices, ^ farmed the taxes, ^ and in some cases 
amassed enormous wealth.* The annals of their Church 
furnish us with many instances of ecclesiastics who were 
held in high favour and consideration by the reigning princes 
of the country, under the rule of many of whom the Christians 
enjoyed the utmost tranquillity.^ To such a period of 
the peace of the Church belongs an incident that led to the 
absorption of many Christians into the body of the faithful. 
During the reign of Salah al-Din (Saladin) (1169-1193) over 
Egypt, the condition of the Christians was ver}'' happy under 
the auspices of this tolerant ruler ; the taxes that had been 
imposed upon them were lightened and several swept away 
altogether ; they crowded into the public offices as secretaries, 
accountants and registrars ; and for nearly a century under 
the successors of Saladin, they enjoyed the same toleration 
and favour, and had nothing to complain of except the cor- 
ruption and degeneracy of their own clergy. Simony had 
become terribly rife among them ; the priesthood was sold 
to ignorant and vicious persons, while postulants for the 
sacred office who were unable to pay the sums demanded 
for ordination, were repulsed with scorn, in spite of their 

^ Maqrizi mentions five other risings of the Copts that had to be crushed 
by force of arms, within the first century of the Arab domination. (Maqrizi 
(2), pp. 76-82.) 

- Renaudot, pp. 1S9, 37.J, 430, 540. ^ jj p (3q^_ 

* Id. pp. 432, 607. Nasir-i-Khusrau : Safar-namah, ed. Schefer, pp. 155-6. 

* Renaudot, pp. 212. 225, 314, 374. 540. 


being worthy and fit persons. The consequence was that 
the spiritual and moral training of the people was utterly 
neglected and there was a lamentable decay of the Christian 
life.i So corrupt had the Church become that when, on 
the death of John, the seventy-fourth Patriarch of the 
Jacobites, in 1216, a successor was to be elected, the con- 
tending parties who pushed the claims of rival candidates, 
kept up a fierce and irreconcilable dispute for nearly twenty 
years, and all this time cared less for the grievous scandal 
and the harmful consequences of their shameless quarrels 
than for the maintenance of their dogged and obstinately 
factious spirit. On more than one occasion the reigning 
sultan tried to make peace between the contending parties, 
refused the enormous bribes of three, five, and even ten 
thousand gold pieces that were offered in order to induce 
him to secure the election of one of the candidates by the 
pressure of official influence, and even offered to remit the 
fee that it was customary for a newly-elected Patriarch to 
pay, if only they would put aside their disputes and come 
to some agreement, — but all to no purpose. Meanwhile 
many episcopal sees fell vacant and there was no one to take 
the place of the bishops and priests that died in this interval ; 
in the monastery of St. Macarius alone there were only four 
priests left as compared with over eighty under the last 
Patriarch.- So utterly neglected were the Christians of 
the western dioceses, that they all became Muslims.^ To 
this bald statement of the historian of the Coptic Church, 
we unfortunately have no information to add, of the positive 
efforts made by the Musalmans to bring these Christians over 
to their faith. That such there were, there can be very 
little doubt, especially as we know that the Christians held 
public disputations and engaged in written controversies 
on the respective merits of the rival creeds.* That these 

1 Renaudot, p. 388. 2 i^j. pp. 567, 571, 574-5. 

^ Wansleben, p. 30. Wansleben mentions another instance (under 
different circumstances) of the decay of the Coptic Church, in the island of 
Cyprus, which was formerly under the jurisdiction of the Coptic Patriarch : 
here they were so persecuted by the Orthodox clergy, who enjoyed the 
protection of the Byzantine emperors, that the Patriarch could not induce 
priests to go there, and consequently all the Copts on the island either 
accepted Islam or the Council of Chalcedon, and their churches were all 
shut up. (Id. p. 31.) * Renaudot, p. 377. 


conversions were not due to persecution, we know from 
direct historical evidence that during this vacancy of the 
patriarchate, the Christians had full and complete freedom 
of public worship, were allowed to restore their churches and 
even to build new ones, were freed from the restrictions that 
forbade them to ride on horses or mules, and were tried 
in law-courts of their own, while the monks were exempted 
from the payment of tribute and granted certain privileges.^ 

How far this incident is a typical case of conversion to 
Islam among the Copts it is difficult to say; a parallel 
case of neglect is mentioned by two Capuchin missionaries 
who travelled up the Nile to Luxor in the seventeenth 
century, where they found that the Copts of Luxor had no 
priest, and some of them had not gone to confession or 
communion for fifty years. '^ Under such circumstances 
the decay of their numbers can readily be understood. 

A similar neglect probably contributed to the decay of 
the Nubian Church which recognised the primacy of the 
Jacobite Patriarch of Alexandria, as do the Abyssinians 
to the present day. The Nubians had been converted to 
Christianity about the middle of the sixth century, and 
retained their independence when Egypt was conquered by 
the Arabs; a treaty was made according to which the 
Nubians were to send every year three hundred and sixty 
slaves, with forty more for the governor of Egypt, while 
the Arabs were to furnish them with corn, oil and raiment.^ 
In the reign of al-Mu'tasim (833-842), ambassadors were 
sent by the caliph renewing this treaty, and the king of 
Nubia visited the capital, where he was received with great 
magnificence and dismissed with costly presents.* In the 
twelfth century they were still all Christian,^ and retained 
their old independence in spite of the frequent expeditions 
sent against them from Egypt. « In 1275 the nephew of 
the then king of Nubia obtained from the sultan of Egypt 
a body of troops to assist him in his revolt against his uncle, 

^ Renaudot, p. 575. 

- Relation du voyage du Sayd on de la Thebayde fait en 1668, par les 
PP. Protais et Charles-Frangois d'Orleans, Capuchins Missionaires, p. 3. 
(Thevenot, vol. ii.) ' Caetani, vol. iv. p. 520. 

« Ishok, of Romgla, pp. 272-3. ^ Idrisi, p. 32. 

* Maqrizi (2), tome i. 2"" partie, p. 131. 


whom he by their help succeeded in deposing ; in return for 
this assistance he had to cede the two northernmost provinces 
of Nubia to the sultan, and as the inhabitants elected to 
retain their Christian faith, an annual tribute of one dinar 
for each male was imposed upon them.^ But this Muham- 
madan overlordship was temporary onl}^ and the Nubians 
of the ceded provinces soon reasserted their independence. ^ 

But settlements of Arabs had been established in Nubia 
for several centuries earlier and the Arabs on the Blue Nile 
had so increased in number and wealth in the tenth century 
that they were able to ask permission to build a mosque in 
Soba,^ the capital of the Christian kingdom."^ In the thir- 
teenth and especially from the beginning of the fourteenth 
century there began a general process of interpenetration 
through the migration into Nubia of Arabs, especially of 
the Juhaynah tribe, who intermarried with the women of 
the land and gradually succeeded in breaking up the power 
of the Nubian princes.^ In the latter half of the fourteenth 
century Ibn Batiitah ^ tells us that the Nubians were still 
Christians, though the king of their chief city, Dongola,' 
had embraced Islam in the reign of Nasir (probably Nasir 
b. Qulaun, one of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt, who died 
A.D. 1340) ; the repeated expeditions of the Muslims so 
late as the fifteenth century had not succeeded in pushing 
their conquests south of the first cataract, near which was 
their last fortified place, ^ while Christianity seems to have 
extended as far up the Nile as Sennaar. 

The Christian Nubian kingdom appears to have come to 
an end partly through internal dissensions and partly 

^ Maqrizi, pp. 12S-30. ^ Burckhardt (i), p. 494. 

^ About twelve miles above the modern Khartum. 

* Artin, pp. 62, 144. 

^ Becker, Geschichte des ostlichcn Siidan, p. 160. 

* Vol. iv. p. 396. 

' Slatin Pasha records a tradition current among the Danagla Arabs 
that this town was founded by their ancestor, Dangal, who called it after 
his own name. (This however is impossible, inasmuch as Dongola was 
in existence in ancient Egyptian times, and is mentioned on the monuments. 
See Vivien de Saint-Martin, vol. ii. p. 85.) According to their tradition, 
this Dangal, though a slave, rose to be ruler of Nubia, but paid tribute to 
Bahnesa, the Coptic bishop of the entire district lying between the present 
Sarras and Debba. (Fire and Sword in the Sudan, p. 13.) (London, 1896.) 

* Ibn Salim al-Aswani, quoted by Maqrizi : Kitab al-Khitat, vol. i. 
p. 190. (Cairo, A.H. 1270.) 


through the attacks of Arab and Negro tribes on its borders, 
and finally by the establishment of the powerful Fiinj 
empire in the fifteenth century. ^ 

But it is probable that the progress of Islam in the country 
was all this time being promoted by the Muhammadan 
merchants and others that frequented it. MaqrizI (writing 
in the early part of the fifteenth century) quotes one of those 
missionary anecdotes which occur so rarely in the works of 
Arabic authors; it is told by Ibn Sallm al-Aswani, and is 
of interest as giving us a living picture of the Muslim propa- 
gandist at work. Though the convert referred to is neither 
a Christian nor a Nubian, still the story shows that there 
was such a thing as conversion to Islam in Nubia in the 
fifteenth century. Ibn Salim says that he once met a man 
at the court of the Nubian chief of Muqurrah, who told him 
that he came from a city that lay three months' journey 
from the Nile. When asked about his religion, he replied, 
" My Creator and thy Creator is God ; the Creator of 
the universe and of all men is One, and his dwelling-place 
is in Heaven." When there was a dearth of rain, or when 
pestilence attacked them or their cattle, his fellow-country- 
men would climb up a high mountain and there pray to God, 
who accepted their prayers and supplied their needs before 
even they came down again. When he acknowledged that 
God had never sent them a prophet, Ibn Salim recounted 
to him the story of the prophets Moses and Jesus and 
Muhammad, and how by the help of God they had been 
enabled to perform many miracles. And he answered, 
" The truth must indeed have been with them, when they 
did these things; and if they performed these deeds, I 
believe in them." ^ 

Very slowl}/ and gradually the Nubians seem to have 
drifted from Christianity into Muhammadanism.^ The 
spiritual life of their Church had sunk to the lowest ebb, 
and as no movement of reform sprang up in their midst, 
and as they had lost touch with the Christian Churches 
beyond their borders, it was only natural that they should 
seek for an expression of their spiritual aspirations in the 

^ Budge, vol. ii. p. igg. Artin, p. 144. 

• Maqrizi : Kitab al-Miitat, vol. i. p. 193. ^ Mode, vol. i. pp. 417-18. 


religion of Islam, whose followers had so long borne witness 
to its living power among them, and had already won over 
some of their countrymen to the acceptance of it. A Portu- 
guese priest, who travelled in Abyssinia from 1520-1527, 
has preserved for us a picture of the Nubians in this state 
of transition ; he says that they were neither Christians, Jews 
nor Muhammadans, but had come to be without faith and 
without laws; but still " they lived with the desire of being 
Christians." Through the fault of their clergy they had 
sunk into the grossest ignorance, and now there were no 
bishops or priests left among them ; accordingly they sent 
an embassy of six men to the king of Abyssinia, praying 
him to send priests and monks to instruct them, but this the 
king refused to do without the permission of the Patriarch of 
Alexandria, and as this could not be obtained, the unfortunate 
ambassadors returned unsuccessful to their own country.^ 
The same writer was informed by a Christian who had 
travelled in Nubia, that he had found 150 churches there, 
in each of which were still to be seen the figures of the cruci- 
fied Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and other saints painted 
on the walls. In all the fortresses, also, that were scattered 
throughout the country, there were churches. ^ Before the 
close of the following century, Christianity had entirely 
disappeared from Nubia " for want of pastors," but the 
closed churches were to be found still standing throughout 
the whole country.^ The Nubians had yielded to the powerful 
Muhammadan influences that surrounded them, to which 
the proselytising efforts of the Muslims who had travelled 
in Nubia for centuries past no doubt contributed a great deal ; 
on the north were Egypt and the Arab tribes that had made 
their way up the Nile and extended their authority along 
the banks of that river ; * on the south, the Muhammadan 
state of the Belloos, separating them from Abyssinia. 

^ Lord Stanley of Alderley in his translation of Alvarez' Narrative from 
the original Portuguese, gives the answer of the king as follows : " He said 
to them that he had his Abima from the country of the Moors, that is to 
say from the Patriarch of Alexandria ; . . . . how then could he give^ 
priests and friars since another gave them " (p. 352). (London, 1881.) 

^ Viaggio nella Ethiopia al Prete lanni fatto par Don Francesco Alvarez 
Portughese (1520-1527). (Ramusio, tom. i. pp. 200, 250.) 

' Wansleben, p. 30. For descriptions of the ruins that still remain, 
see Budge, vol. ii. p. 299 sqq., and G. S. Nileham, Churches in Lower 
Nubia. (Philadelphia, 1910.) * Burckhardt (i), p. 133. 



These Belloos, in the early part of the sixteenth century, 
were, in spite of their Mushm faith, tributaries of the Christian 
king of Abyssinia ; ^ and — if they may be identified with 
the Bahyyiin, who, together with their neighbours, the 
Bajah (the inhabitants of the so-called island of Meroe), are 
spoken of by Idrlsl, in the twelfth century, as being Jacobite 
Christians, 2 — it is probable that they had only a few \^ears 
before been converted to Islam, at the same time as the Bajah, 
who had been incorporated into the Muhammadan empire 
of the Funj, when these latter extended their conquests in 
1499-1530 from the south up to the borders of Nubia and 
Abyssinia and founded the powerful state of Sennaar. 
When the army of Ahmad Grafi invaded Abyssinia and 
made its way right through the country from south to north, 
it effected a junction about 1534 with the army of the sultan 
of Maseggia or Mazaga, a province under Muhammadan 
rule but tributary to Abyssinia, lying between that country 
and Sennaar ; in the army of this sultan there were 15,000 
Nubian soldiers who, from the account given of them, appear 
to have been Musalmans.^ Fragmentary and insufficient 
as these data of the conversion of the Nubians are, we may 
certainly conclude from all we know of the independent 
character of this people and the tenacity with which they 
clung to the Christian faith, so long as it was a living force 
among them, that their change of religion was a gradual one, 
extending through several centuries. 

Let us now pass to the history of Islam among the Abys- 
sinians, who had received Christianity two centuries before 
the Nubians, and like them belonged to the Jacobite Church. 

The tide of Arab emigration does not seem to have set 
across the Red Sea, the western shores of which formed part 
of the Abyssinian kingdom, until many centuries after 
Arabia had accepted the faith of the prophet. Up to the 
tenth century only a few Muhammadan families were to 
be found residing in the coast towns of Abyssinia, but at 
the end of the twelfth century the foundation of an Arab 
dynasty ahenated some of the coast-lands from the Abys- 
sinian kingdom. In 1300 a missionary, named Abii 'Abd 
Allah Muhammad, made his way into Abyssinia, calling 

^ Alvarez, p. 250. * idnsl, p. 32. =» 'Arabfaqih, p. 323. 


on the people to embrace Islam, and in the following year, 
having collected around him 200,000 men, he attacked 
the ruler of Amhara in several engagements. ^ King Saifa 
Ar'ad (1342-1370) took energetic measures against the 
Muhammadans in his kingdom, putting to death or driving 
into exile all those who refused to embrace Christianity.^ 
At the close of the same century the disturbed state 
of the country, owing to the civil wars that distracted 
it, made it possible for the various Arab settlements 
along the coast to make themselves masters of the 
entire seaboard and drive the Abyssinians into the in- 
terior, and the king, Ba'eda Maryam (1468-1478), is said to 
have spent the greater part of his reign in fighting against 
the Muhammadans on the eastern border of his kingdom.^ 
In the early part of the sixteenth century, while the 
powerful Muhammadan kingdom of Adal, between Abyssinia 
and the southern extremity of the Red Sea, and some others 
were bitterly hostile to the Christian power, there were 
others again that formed peaceful tributaries of " Prester 
John " ; e. g. in Massowah there were Arabs who kept the 
flocks of the Abyssinian seigniors, wandering about in 
bands of thirty or forty with their wives and children, each 
band having its Christian " captain." * Some Musalmans 
are also mentioned as being in the service of the king and 
being entrusted by him with important posts ; ^ while some 
of these remained faithful to Islam, others embraced the 
prevailing religion of the country. What was implied in 
the fact of these Muhammadan communities being tribu- 
taries of the king of Abyssinia, it is difficult to determine. 
The Musalmans of Hadya had along with other tribute to 
give up every year to the king a maiden who had to become 
a Christian ; this custom was in accordance with an ancient 
treaty, which the king of Abyssinia has always made them 
observe, " because he was the stronger " ; besides this, they 
were forbidden to carry arms or put on war-apparel, and, 
if they rode, their horses were not to be saddled ; " these 
orders," they said, " we have always obeyed, so that the 

1 Maqrizi (2), tome ii. 2""" partie, p. 183. 

2 Basset, p. 240. ' Id., p. 247. 
* Alvarez. (Kamusio, torn. i. pp. 218, 242, 249.) 

^ 'Arabfaqih, pp. 83, 191. 


king may not put us to death and destroy our mosques. 
When the king sends his people to fetch the maiden and the 
tribute, we put her on a bed, wash her and cover her with 
a cloth, and recite the prayers for the dead over her 
and give her up to the people of the king; and thus did 
our fathers and our grandfathers before us." ^ 

These Muhammadan tributaries were chiefly to be found 
in the low-lying countries that formed the northern boundary 
of Abj^ssinia, from the Red Sea westward to Sennaar,^ and 
on the south and the south-east of the kingdom.^ What 
influence these Muhammadans had on the Christian popula- 
tions with which they were intermingled, and whether they 
made converts to Islam as in the present century, is matter 
only of conjecture. Certain it is, however, that when the 
independent Muhammadan ruler of Adal, Ahmad Gran — him- 
self said to have been the son of a Christian priest of Aijjo, 
who had left his own country and adopted Islam in that of 
the Adals * — invaded Ab3^ssinia from 1528 to 1543, many 
Abyssinian chiefs with their followers joined his victorious 
army and became Musalmans, and though the Christian 
populations of some districts preferred to pay jizyah,^ 
others embraced the religion of the conqueror.*' But the 
contemporary Muslim historian himself tells us that in some 
cases this conversion was the result of fear, and that suspicions 
were entertained of the genuineness of the allegiance of the 
new converts.'^ But such apparently was not universally 
the case, and the widespread character of the conversions 
in several districts give the impression of a popular move- 
ment. The Christian chiefs who went over to Islam made 
use of their personal influence in inducing their troops to 
follow their example. They were, as we are told, in some 
cases very ignorant of their own religion,^ and thus the change 
of faith was a less difficult matter. Particularly instrumental 
in conversions of this kind were those Muhammadan chiefs 
who had previously entered the service of the king of 
Abyssinia, and those renegades who took the opportunity 
of the invasion of the country by a conquering Musalman 

^ 'Arabfaqih, p. 275-6. ^ Id. pp. 319, 324. ' Id. pp. 28, 129, 275. 
* Plowden, p. 36. * 'Arabfaqih, pp. 321, 335, 343. 

" Id. passim. '' Id. pp. 175, 195, 248. « j^ p jyg. 


army to throw off their allegiance at once to Christianity 
and the Christian king and declare themselves Muhammadans 
once more.i 

One of these in 1531 wrote the following letter to Ahmad 
Gran : — " I was formerly a Muslim and the son of a Muslim, 
was taken prisoner by the polytheists and made a Christian 
by force ; but in my heart I have always clung to the true 
faith and now I seek the protection of God and of His Prophet 
and of thee. If thou wilt accept my repentance and punish 
me not for what I have done, I will return in penitence to 
God ; and I will devise means whereby the troops of the king, 
that are with me, may join thee and become Mushms; " — 
and in fact the greater part of his army elected to follow 
their general; including the women and children their 
numbers are said to have amounted to 20,000 souls. ^ 

But with the help of the Portuguese, the Abyssinians 
succeeded in shaking off the yoke of their Muhammadan 
conquerors and Ahmad Gran himself was slain in 1543. 
Islam had, however, gained a footing in the country, which 
the troublous condition of affairs during the remainder of 
the sixteenth and the following century enabled it to retain, 
the rival Christian Churches being too busily engaged in 
contending with one another, to devote much attention 
to their common enemy. For the successful proselytising 
of the Jesuits and other Roman Catholic missionaries and 
the active interference of the Portuguese in all civil and 
political matters, excited violent opposition in the mass of 
the Abyssinian Christians ; — indeed so bitter was this feeling 
that some of the chiefs openly declared that they would 
rather submit to a Muhammadan ruler than continue their 
alliance with the Portuguese ; ^ — and the semi-religious, 
semi-patriotic movement set on foot thereby, rapidly 
assumed such vast proportions as to lead (about 1632) to 
the expulsion of the Portuguese and the exclusion of all 
foreign Christians from the country. The condition of 
Abyssinia then speedily became one of terrible confusion 
and anarchy, of which some tribes of the Galla race took 

1 'Arabfaqih, pp. 34-5, 120-1, 182-3, 244, 327. 
- 'Arabfaqih, pp. 181-2, 186. 

^ lobi Ludolfi ad suam Historiam iEthiopicam Commcntarius, p. 474. 
Frankfurt a. M., 1691.) 


advantage, to thrust their way right into the very centre of 
the country, where their settlements remain to the present 

The progress achieved by Islam during this period may be 
estimated from the testimony of a traveller of the seven- 
teenth century, who tells us that in his time the adherents 
of this faith were scattered throughout the whole of Abyssinia 
and formed a third of the entire population. ^ During the 
following century the faith of the Prophet seems steadily 
to have increased by means of the conversion of isolated indi- 
viduals here and there. The absence of any strong central 
government in the country favoured the rise of petty inde- 
pendent chieftains, many of whom had strong Muhammadan 
sympathies, though (in accordance with a fundamental law 
of the state) all the Abyssinian princes had to belong to 
the Christian faith ; the Muhammadans, too, aspiring to 
the dignity of the Abyssinian aristocracy, abjured the faith 
in which they had been born and pretended conversion to 
Christianity in order to get themselves enrolled in the order 
of the nobles, and as governors of Christian provinces made 
use of all their influence towards the spread of Islam. ^ One 
of the chief reasons of the success of this faith seems to have 
been the moral superiority of the Mushms as compared with 
that of the Christian population of Abyssinia. Riippell 
says that he frequently noticed in the course of his travels 
in Abyssinia that when a post had to be filled which required 
that a thoroughly honest and trustworthy person should 
be selected, the choice always fell upon a Muhammadan. 
In comparison with the Christians, he says that they were 
more active and energetic ; that every Muhammadan had 
his sons taught to read and write, whereas Christian children 
were only educated when they were intended for the priest- 
hood. ^ This moral superiority of the Muhammadans of 

1 Histoire de la Haute Ethiopie, par le R. P. Manoel d'Almeida, p. 7. 
(Thevenot, vol. ii.) 

^ Massaja, vol. ii. pp. 205-6. " Ognuno comprende che movente di 
queste conversioni essendo la sete di regnare, nel fatto non si riducevano 
che ad una formalita esterna, restando poi i nuovi convertiti veri mussul- 
mani nei cuori e nei costumi. E percio accadeva che, elevati alia digniti 
di Ras, si circondavano di mussulmani, dando ad essi la maggior parte 
degli impieghi e colmandoli di titoli, ricchezze e favori : e cosi I'Abissinia 
cristiana invasa e popolata da questa pessima razza, passo COlI' andar del 
tempo sotto il giogo dell' islamismo." (Id, p. 206.) 

* Riippell, vol. i. pp. 32S, 366. 



Abyssinia over the Christian population goes far to explain 
the continuous though slow progress made by Islam during 
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ; the degradation 
and apathy of the Abyssinian clergy and the interminable 
feuds of the Abyssinian chiefs, have left Muhammadan 
influences free to work undisturbed. Mr. Plowden, who 
was Enghsh consul in Abyssinia from 1844 to i860, speaking 
of the Habab, three Tigre tribes dwelhng between 16° and 
17° 30' lat., to the north-west of Massowah, says that 
they have become Muhammadan " within the last 100 
years, and all, save the latest generation, bear Christian 
names. They have changed their faith, through the con- 
stant influence of the Muhammadans with whom they 
trade, and through the gradual and now entire abandon- 
ment of the country by the Abyssinian chiefs, too much 
occupied in ceaseless wars with their neighbours." ^ They 
have a tradition that one of their chiefs named Jawej 
rejected Christianity for Islam, in the belief that the latter 
faith brought good luck and long life ; he then said to his 
priest, " Break in pieces the Tabot " ; ^ the priest answered, 
" I dare not break in pieces the Tabot of Mary " ; so Jawej 
seized the Tabot with his own hands and cut it in pieces with 
an axe ; the Christian priests then adopted Islam, and all 
their descendants are shaykhs of the tribe to the present day.^ 
Other sections of the population of the northern districts 
of the country were similarly converted to Islam during 
the same period, because the priests had abandoned these 
districts and the churches had been suffered to fall into 
ruins, — apparently entirely through neglect, as the Muham- 
madans here are said to have been by no means fanatical 
nor to have borne any particular enmity to Christianity.^ 
Similar testimony to the progress of Islam in the early 
part of the nineteenth century is given by other travellers,^ 
who found numbers of Christians to be continually passing 
over to that faith. The Muhammadans were especially 
favoured by Ras 'All, one of the vice-regents of Abyssinia 
and practically master of the country before the accession 

1 Plowden, p. 15. - Tabot, the ark of the covenant. 

■- Littmann, pp. 69-70. '' Plowden, pp. S-9. 

* Beke, pp. 51-2, Isenberg, p. 36. 


of King Theodore in 1853. Though himself a Christian, 
he distributed posts and even the spoils of the churches 
among the followers of Islam, and during his reign one half 
of the population of the central provinces of Abyssinia 
embraced the faith of the Prophet. ^ Such deep roots had 
this faith now struck in Abyssinia that its followers had 
in their hands all the commerce as well as all the petty trade 
of the country, enjoyed vast possessions, were masters of 
large towns and central markets, and had a firm hold upon 
the mass of the people. Indeed, a Christian missionary 
who lived for thirty-five years in this country, rated the 
success and the zeal of the Muslim propagandists so high 
as to say that were another Ahmad Gran to arise and unfurl 
the banner of the Prophet, the whole of Abyssinia would 
become Muhammadan.^ Embroilments with the Egyptian 
government (with which Abyssinia was at war from 1875 
to 1882) brought about a revulsion of feeling against Muham- 
madanism : hatred of the foreign Muslim foe reacted upon 
their co-religionists within the border. In 1878, King John 
summoned a Convocation of the Abyssinian clergy, who 
proclaimed him supreme arbiter in matters of faith and 
ordained that there should be but one religion throughout 
the whole kingdom. Christians of all sects other than the 
Jacobite were given two years in which to become reconciled 
to the national Church ; the Muhammadans were to submit 
within three, and the heathen within five, years. A few 
days later the king promulgated an edict that showed how 
little worth was the three years' grace allowed to the Muham- 
madans ; for not only did he order them to build Christian 
churches wherever they were needed and to pay tithes to 
the priests resident in their respective districts, but also 
gave three months' notice to all Muhammadan officials 
to either receive baptism or resign their posts. Such 
compulsory conversion (consisting as it did merely of the rite 
of baptism and the payment of tithes) was naturally of the 
most ineffectual character, and while outwardly conforming, 
the Muslims in secret protested their loyalty to their old 
faith. Massaja saw some such go straight from the church 

' Reclus, vol. X. p. 247. Massaja, vol. xi. p. 125. 
- Massaja, vol. xi. p. 124, 


in which they had been baptised to the mosque, in order 
to have this enforced baptism wiped off by some holy man 
of their own faith. ^ These mass conversions were rendered 
the more ineffectual by being confined to the men, for as 
the royal edict had made no mention of the women they 
were in no way molested, — a circumstance that probably 
proved to be of considerable significance in the future 
history of Islam in Abyssinia, as Massaja bears striking 
testimony to the important part the Muhammadan women 
have played in the diffusion of their faith in this country. ^ 
By 1880 King John is said to have compelled about 50,000 
Muhammadans to be baptised, as well as 20,000 members 
of one of the pagan tribes and half a million of Gallas,^ 
but as their conversion went no further than baptism and 
the payment of tithes, it is not surprising to learn that the 
only result of these violent measures was to increase the 
hatred and hostihty of both the Muslim and the heathen 
Abyssinians towards the Christian faith.'* The king of the 
petty state of Kafa (which had almost always acknow- 
ledged the supremacy of Abyssinia), — Sawo-Teheno, — took 
advantage of the embarrassment of King John, who was 
threatened at once by the Italians and the followers of 
the Mahdl, to assert his independence, and became a Musal- 
man, in order to do so more effectively. He successfully 
resisted all attacks until 1897, when his state was recon- 
quered and he himself taken prisoner by the Emperor 
Menelik, the former king of Shoa, who had established his 
authority over the whole of Abyssinia after the death of 
King John in 1889. Christianity was re-established as 
the state religion throughout Kafa and Christian worship 
renewed in the churches, which had been left uninjured, 
being either shut up or turned into mosques.^ But these 
violent measures taken in the interests of the Christian 
faith have failed to arrest the growing power of Islam 
during the nineteenth century. Whole tribes that were 
once Christian and still bear Christian names, such as 
Takles (" Plant of Jesus "), Hebtes (" Gift of Jesus ") 

1 Massaja, vol. xi. pp. 77-8. - Id. pp.124, 125. 

' Oppel, p. 307. Reclus, tome x. p. 247. 
* Massaja, vol. xi. pp. 79, Si. * Mode, vol. ii. p. 449. 


and Temaryam (" Gift of Mary "), have become Muslim. 
The two Mansa' tribes which were entirely Christian about 
the middle of the nineteenth century had become Muslim, 
for the most part, at the beginning of the twentieth century ; 
the propagandist efforts of the Muslims who converted them 
appear to have been facilitated through the ignorance of 
the Christian clergy. A similar Muhammadanising process 
has been going on for some time among other tribes also.^ 

We must return now to the history of Africa in the seventh 
century, when the Arabs were pushing their conquests from 
East to West along the north coast. The comparatively 
easy conquest of Egypt, where so many of the inhabitants 
assisted the Arabs in bringing the Byzantine rule to an 
end, found no parallel in the bloody campaigns and the 
long-continued resistance that here barred their further 
progress, and half a century elapsed before the Arabs 
succeeded in making themselves complete masters of the 
north coast from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. It was not 
till 698 that the fall of Carthage brought the Roman rule 
in Africa to an end for ever, and the subjugation of the 
Berbers made the Arabs supreme in the country. 

The details of these campaigns it is no part of our purpose 
to consider, but rather to attempt to discover in what way 
Islam was spread among the Christian population. Un- 
fortunately the materials available for such a purpose are 
lamentably sparse and insufficient. What became of that 
great African Church that had given such saints and theo- 
logians to Christendom ? The Church of Tertulhan, St. 
Cyprian and St. Augustine, which had emerged victorious 
out of so many persecutions, and had so stoutly championed 
the cause of Christian orthodoxy, seems to have faded away 
like a mist. 

In the absence of definite information, it has been usual 
to ascribe the disappearance of the Christian population to 
fanatical persecutions and forced conversions on the part 
of the Muslim conquerors. But there are many considera- 
tions that militate against such a rough and ready settle- 
ment of this question. First of all, there is the absence 

1 Littmann, pp. 68-70. K. Cederquist : Islam and Christianity in 
Abyssinia, p. 154 (The Moslem World, vol. ii.). 


of definite evidence in support of such an assertion. 
Massacres, devastation and all the other accompaniments 
of a bloody and long-protracted war, there were in horrible 
abundance, but of actual religious persecution we have 
httle mention, and the survival of the native Christian Church 
for more than eight centuries after the Arab conquest is a 
testimony to the toleration that alone could have rendered 
such a survival possible. 

The causes that brought about the decay of Christianity 
in North Africa must be sought for elsewhere than in the 
bigotry of Muhammadan rulers. But before attempting 
to enumerate these, it will be well to realise how very small 
must have been the number of the Christian population 
at the end of the seventh century — a circumstance that 
renders its continued existence under Muhammadan rule 
still more significant of the absence of forced conversion, 
and leaves such a hypothesis much less plausibility than 
would have been the case had the Arabs found a large and 
flourishing Christian Church there when they commenced 
their conquest of northern Africa. 

The Roman provinces of Africa, to which the Christian 
population was confined, never extended far southwards; 
the Sahara forms a barrier in this direction, so that the 
breadth of the coast seldom exceeds 80 or 100 miles. ^ 
Though there were as many as 500 bishoprics just before 
the Vandal conquest, this number can serve as no criterion 
of the number of the faithful, owing to the practice observed 
in the African Church of appointing bishops to the most 
inconsiderable towns and very frequently to the most obscure 
villages, 2 and it is doubtful whether Christianity ever spread 
far inland among the Berber tribes.^ When the power of 
the Roman Empire declined in the fifth century, different 
tribes of this great race, known to the Romans under the 
names of Moors, Numidians, Libyans, etc., swarmed up 
from the south to ravage and destroy the wealthy cities 
of the coast. These invaders were certainly heathen. The 
Libyans, whose devastations are so pathetically bewailed 

^ Gibbon, vol. i. p. i6i. * Id. vol. ii. p. 212. 

* C. O. Castiglioni : Recherchea sur les Berberes atlantiques, pp. 96-7. 
(Milan, 1S26.) 


by Synesius of Cyrene, pillaged and burnt the churches 
and carried off the sacred vessels for their own idolatrous 
rites/ and this province of Cyrenaica never recovered from 
their devastations, and Christianity was probably almost 
extinct here at the time of the Muslim invasion. The 
Moorish chieftain in the district of Tripolis, who was at 
war with the Vandal king Thorismund (496-524), but 
respected the churches and clergy of the orthodox, who had 
been ill-treated by the Vandals, declared his heathenism 
when he said, " I do not know who the God of the Christians 
is, but if he is so powerful as he is represented, he will take 
vengeance on those who insult him, and succour those who 
do him honour." - There is some probability that the 
nomads of Mauritania also were very largely heathen. 

But whatever may have been the extent of the Christian 
Church, it received a blow from the Vandal persecutions 
from which it never recovered. For nearly a century the 
Arian Vandals persecuted the orthodox with relentless 
fury; sent their bishops into exile, forbade the public 
exercise of their religion and cruelly tortured those who 
refused to conform to the religion of their conquerors.^ 
When in 534, Behsarius crushed the power of the Vandals 
and restored North Africa to the Roman Empire, only 
217 bishops met in the Synod of Carthage* to resume the 
direction of the Christian Church. After the fierce and 
long-continued persecution to which they had been subjected 
the number of the faithful must have been very much 
reduced, and during the century that elapsed before the 
coming of the Muhammadans, the inroads of the barbarian 
Moors, who shut the Romans up in the cities and other 
centres of population, and kept the mountains, the desert 
and the open country for themselves,^ the prevalent disorder 
and ill-government, and above all the desolating plagues 
that signahsed the latter half of the sixth century, all com- 
bined to carry on the work of destruction. Five millions 
of Africans are said to have been consumed by the wars 
and governm.ent of the Emperor Justinian. The wealthier 

^ Synesii Catastasis. (Migne : Patr. Gr., torn. Ixvi. p. 1569.) 

^ Neander {2), p. 320. '■^ Gibbon, vol. iv. pp. 331-3. 

* Id. vol. V. p. 115. ^ Tijani, p. 201. Gibbon, vol, v. p. 122. 


citizens abandoned a country whose commerce and agricul- 
ture, once so flourishing, had been irretrievably ruined. 
" Such was the desolation of Africa, that iq^any parts a 
stranger might wander whole days without n^j^eting the face 
either of a friend or an enemy. The nation of the Vandals 
had disappeared; they once amounted to an hundred and 
sixty thousand warriors, without including the children, 
the women, or the slaves. Their numbers were infinitely 
surpassed by the number of Moorish families extirpated 
in a relentless war ; the same destruction was retaliated on 
the Romans and their allies, who perished by the climate, 
their mutual quarrels, and the rage of the barbarians." ^ 

In 646, the year before the victorious Arabs advanced 
from Egypt to the subjugation of the western province, 
the African Church that had championed so often the purity 
of Christian doctrine, was stirred to its depths by the struggle 
against Monotheletism ; but when the bishops of the four 
ecclesiastical provinces in the archbishopric of Carthage, 
viz. Mauritania, Numidia, Byzacena and Africa Proconsu- 
laris, held councils to condemn Monotheletism, and wrote 
synodal letters to the Emperor and the Pope, there were 
only sixty-eight bishops who assembled at Carthage to 
represent the last-mentioned province, and forty-two for 
Byzacena. The numbers from the other two dioceses 
are not given, but the Christian population had undoubtedly 
suffered much more in these than in the two other dioceses 
which were nearer to the seat of government. ^ It is ex- 
ceedingly unlikely that any of the bishops were absent on 
an occasion that excited so much feeling, when zeal for 
Christian doctrine and political animosity to the Byzantine 
court both combined in stimulating this movement, and 
when Africa took the most prominent part in stirring up 
the opposition that led to the convening of the great Lateran 
Council of 648. This diminution in the number of the 
African bishops certainly points to a vast decrease in the 
Christian population, and in consideration of the numerous 
causes contributing to a decay of the population, too great 

^ Gibbon, vol. v. p. 214. 

^ Neander (i), vol. v. pp. 254-5. J. E. T. Wiltsch : Hand-book of the 
geography and statistics of the Church, vol. i. pp. 433-4. (London, 1859.) 
J. Bournichon : L'Invasion musulmane en Afrique, pp. 32-3. (Tours, i8go.) 


stress even must not be laid upon the number of these, 
because an episcopal see may continue to be filled long 
after the diocese has sunk into insignificance. 

From the (H^iderations enumerated above, it may cer- 
tainly be inferiigd that the Christian population at the time 
of the Muhammadan invasion was by no means a large one. 
During the fifty years that elapsed before the Arabs assured 
their victory, the Christian population was still further 
reduced by the devastations of this long conflict. The city 
of Tripolis, after sustaining a siege of six months, was sacked, 
and of the inhabitants part were put to the sword and the 
rest carried off captive into Egypt and Arabia. ^ Another 
city, bordering on the Numidian desert, was defended by a 
Roman count with a large garrison which bravely endured 
a blockade of a whole year; when at last it was taken by 
storm, all the males were put to the sword and the women 
and children carried off captive. ^ The number of such 
captives is said to have amounted to several hundreds of 
thousands.^ Many of the Christians took refuge in flight,'* 
some into Italy and Spain, ^ and it would almost seem that 
others even wandered as far as Germany, judging from a 
letter addressed to the diocese of St. Boniface by Pope 
Gregory 11.^ In fact, many of the great Roman cities were 
quite depopulated, and remained uninhabited for a long 
time or were even left to fall to ruins entirely,' while in several 
cases the conquerors chose entirely new sites for their chief 
towns. ^ 

As to the scattered remnants of the once flourishing 
Christian Church that still remained in Africa at the end 

^ Leo Africanus. (Ramusio, torn. i. p. 70, D.) 

* " Deusen, una citta anticliissima edificata da Romani dove confina il 
regno di Buggia col diserto di Numidia." (Id. p. 75, F.) 

' Pavy, vol. i. p. iv. 

* " Tous ceux qui ne se convertirent pas a I'islamisme, ou qui (conservant 
leur foi) ne voulurent pas s'obliger a payer la capitation, durent prendre 
la fuite devant les armees musulmanes." (Tijani, p. 201.) 

* Leo Africanus. (Ramusio, torn. i. p. 7.) 

* " Afros passim ad ecclesiasticos ordines (procedentes) praetendentes 
nulla ratione suscipiat (Bonifacius), quia aliqui eorum Manichaei, aliqui 
rebaptizati sa;pius sunt probati." Epist. iv. (Migne : Patr. Lat., tom. 
Ixxxix, p. 502.) 

' Leo Africanus. (Ramusio, pp. 65, 66, 68, 6g, 76.) 

* Qayrwan or Cairoan, founded a.h. 50; Fez, founded a.h. 185; al-Mah- 
diyyah, founded a.h. 303; Masilah, founded a.h. 315; Marocco, founded 
A.H. 424. (Abu-1 Fida, tome ii. pp. 198, 186, 200, 191, 187.) 


of the seventh century, it can hardly be supposed that 
persecution is responsible for their final disappearance, in 
the face of the fact that traces of a native Christian com- 
munity were to be found even so late as the sixteenth century. 
Idrls, the founder of the dynasty in Morocco that bore his 
name, is indeed said to have compelled by force Christians 
and Jews to embrace Islam in the year a.d. 789, when he 
had just begun to carve out a kingdom for himself with the 
sword, ^ but, as far as I have been able to discover, this 
incident is without parallel in the history of the native Church 
of North Africa. 2 

The very slowness of its decay is a testimony to the 
toleration it must have received. About 300 years after 
the Muhammadan conquest there were still nearly forty 
bishoprics left,'' and when in 1053 Pope Leo IX laments 
that only five bishops could be found to represent the once 
flourishing African Church,* the cause is most probabl}' to 
be sought for in the terrible bloodshed and destruction 
wrought by the Arab hordes that had poured into the 
country a few years before and filled it with incessant conflict 

1 Ibn Abi Zar', p. i6. 

* A doubtful case of forced conversion is attributed to 'Abd al-Mu'min, 
who conquered Tunis in 1159. See De Mas Latrie (2), pp. 77-8. " Deux 
auteurs arabes, Ibn-al-Athir, contemporain, mais vivant a. Damas au milieu 
de I'exaltation religieuse que provoquaient les victoires de Saladin, I'autre 
El-Tidjani, visitant I'Afrique orientale au quatorzieme siecle, ont ecrit 
que le sultan, maitre de Tunis, ioT(^a. les Chretiens et les juifs etablis dans 
cette ville a embrasser Tislamisme, et que les refractaires furent impi- 
toyablement massacres. Nous doutons de la realite de toutes ces mesures. 
Si I'arret fatal fut prononce dans I'emportement du triomphe et pour 
satisfaire quelques exigences momentanees, il dut etre elude ou revoque, 
tant il etait contraire au principe de la liberte religieuse respecte j usque-la 
par tous les princes maugrebins. Ce qu'il y a de certain, c'est que les 
Chretiens et les juifs ne tarderent pas a reparaitre a Tunis et qu'on voit 
les Chretiens avant la fin du regne d'Abd-el-Moumen etablis a Tunis et y 
jouissant comme par le passe de la liberte, de leurs etablissements, de leur 
commerce et de leur religion . . . . ' Accompagne ainsi par Dieu meme 
dans sa marche, dit un ancien auteur maugrebin, il traversa victorieusement 
les terres du Zab et de ITfrikiah, conqucrant le pays et les villes, accordant 
I'aman a ceux qui le demandaient et tuant les recalcitrants.' Ces derniers 
mots conlirment notre sentiment sur sa politique a I'egard des Chretiens 
qui accepterent I'arret fatal de la destince." 

^ De Mas Latrie (2), pp. 27-8. 

* S. Leonis IX. Papai Epist. Ixxxiii. (Migne : Patr. Lat., tom. cxliii. 
p. 728.) This letter deals with a quarrel for precedence between the bishops 
of Gummi and Carthage, and it is quite possible that the disordered con- 
dition of Africa at the time may have kept the African bishops ignorant 
of the condition of other sees besides their own and those immediately 
adjacent, and that accordingly the information supplied to the Pope repre- 
sented the number of the bishops as being smaller than it really was. 


and anarchy. 1 In 1076, the African Church could not pro- 
vide the three bishops necessary for the consecration of an 
aspirant to the dignity of the episcopate, in accordance with 
the demands of canon law, and it was necessary for Pope 
Gregory VII to consecrate two bishops to act as coadjutors 
of the Archbishop of Carthage ; but the numbers of the 
faithful were still so large as to demand the creation of fresh 
bishops to lighten the burden of the work, which was too 
heavy for these three bishops to perform unaided. ^ In the 
course of the next two centuries, the Christian Church 
declined still further, and in 1246 the bishop of Morocco 
was the sole spiritual leader of the remnant of the native 
Church.^ Up to the same period traces of the survival of 
Christianity were still to be found among the Kabils of 
Algeria ; "* these tribes had received some slight instruction 
in the tenets of Islam at an early period, but the new faith 
had taken very little hold upon them, and as years went 
by they lost even what little knowledge they had at first 
possessed, so much so that they even forgot the Muslim 
formula of prayer. Shut up in their mountain fastnesses 
and jealous of their independence, they successfully resisted 
the introduction of the Arab element into their midst, and 
thus the difficulties in the wa}^ of their conversion were very 
considerable. Some unsuccessful attempts to start a mission 
among them had been made by the inmates of a monastery 
belonging to the Qadiriyyah order, Saqiyah al-hamra', but 
the honour of winning an entrance among them for the Muslim 
faith was reserved for a number of Andalusian Moors who 
were driven out of Spain after the taking of Granada in 1492. 
They had taken refuge in this monastery and were recog- 
nised by the shaykh to be eminently fitted for the arduous 
task that had previously so completely baffled the efforts 
of his disciples. Before dismissing them on this pious 
errand, he thus addressed them : " It is a duty incumbent 

^ A. Miiller, vol. ii. pp. 628-9. 

2 S. Gregorii VII. Epistolaxix. (Liber tertius). (Migne : Patr. Lat., torn, 
cxlviii. p. 449.) 

^ De Mas Latrie, p. 226. A number of Spanish Christians, whose 
ancestors had been deported to Morocco in 11 22, were to be found there as 
late as 1386, when they were allowed to return to Seville through the good 
offices of the then sultan of Morocco. (Whishaw, pp. 31-4.) 

* C. Trumelet : Les Saintes de I'lslam, p. xxxiii. (Paris, 1881.) 


upon us to bear the torch of Islam into these regions that 
have lost their inheritance in the blessings of religion; for 
these unhappy Kabils are wholly unprovided with schools, 
and have no shaykh to teach their children the laws of 
morality and the virtues of Islam ; so they live like the 
brute beasts, without God or religion. To do away with 
this unhappy state of things, I have determined to appeal 
to your religious zeal and enlightenment. Let not these 
mountaineers wallow any longer in their pitiable ignorance 
of the grand truths of our religion ; go and breathe upon 
the dying fire of their faith and re-illumine its smouldering 
embers ; purge them of whatever errors may still cling to 
them from their former belief in Christianity; make them 
understand that in the religion of our lord Muhammad — 
may God have compassion upon him — dirt is not, as in 
the Christian religion, looked upon as acceptable in the 
eyes of God.^ I will not disguise from you the fact that your 
task is beset with difficulties, but your irresistible zeal and 
the ardour of your faith will enable you, by the grace of God, 
to overcome all obstacles. Go, my children, and bring back 
again to God and His Prophet these unhappy people who 
are wallowing in the mire of ignorance and unbelief. Go, 
my children, bearing the message of salvation, and may 
God be with you and uphold you." 

The missionaries started off in parties of five or six at a 
time in various directions ; they went in rags, staff in hand, 
and choosing out the wildest and least frequented parts 
of the mountains, established hermitages in caves and 
clefts of the rocks. Their austerities and prolonged devo- 
tions soon excited the curiosity of the Kabils, who after 
a short time began to enter into friendly relations with 
them. Little by little the missionaries gained the influence 
they desired through their knowledge of medicine, of the 
mechanical arts, and other advantages of civilisation, and 
each hermitage became a centre of MusHm teaching. 

1 Compare the articles published by a Junta held at Madrid in 1566, 
for the reformation of the Moriscoes ; one of which runs as follows : " That 
neither themselves, their women, nor any other persons should be permitted 
to wash or bathe themselves either at home or elsewhere; and that all 
their bathing houses should be pulled down and demolished." (J. Morgan, 
vol. ii. p. 256.) 


Students, attracted by the learning of the new-comers, 
gathered round them and in time became missionaries 
of Islam to their fellow-countrymen, until their faith spread 
throughout all the country of the Kabils and the villages 
of the Algerian Sahara. ^ 

The above incident is no doubt illustrative of the manner 
in which Islam was introduced among such other sections 
of the independent tribes of the interior as had received 
any Christian teaching, but whose knowledge of this faith 
had dwindled down to the observance of a few superstitious 
rites ; 2 for, cut off as they were from the rest of the Christian 
world and unprovided with spiritual teachers, they could 
have had little in the way of positive religious belief to 
oppose to the teachings of the Mushm missionaries. 

There is little more to add to these sparse records of the 
decay of the North African Church. A Muhammadan 
traveller,^ who visited al-Jarid, the southern district of 
Tunis, in the early part of the fourteenth century, tells us 
that the Christian churches, although in ruins, were still 
standing in his day, not having been destroyed by the Arab 
conquerors, who had contented themselves with building 
a mosque in front of each of these churches. Ibn Kialdiin 
(writing towards the close of the fourteenth century), 
speaks of some villages in the province of Qastiliyyah,^ 
with a Christian population whose ancestors had Hved 
there since the time of the Arab conquest. ^ At the end 
of the following century there was still to be found in the 
city of Tunis a small community of native Christians, 
hving together in one of the suburbs, quite distinct from 
that in which the foreign Christian merchants resided ; far 
from being oppressed or persecuted, they were employed 
as the bodyguard of the Sultan.^ These were doubtless 

^ C. Trumelet : Les Saints de I'lslam, pp. xxviii-xxxvi. 

2 Leo Africanus says that at the end of the fifteenth century all the moun- 
taineers of Algeria and of Buggia, though Muhammadans, painted black 
crosses on their cheeks and palms of the hand (Ramusio, i. p. 6i) ; similarly 
the Banu Mzab to the present day still keep up some religious observances 
corresponding to excommunication and confession (Oppel, p. 299), and some 
nomad tribes of the Sahara observe the practice of a kind of baptism and 
use the cross as a decoration for their stuffs and weapons. (De Mas Latrie 
(2), p. 8.) 

I Tijani, p. 203. * The modern Touzer, in Tunis. 

Ta'rildi al-duwal al-islamiyyah bi'l maghrib, I. p. 146. (ed. De Slane. 
Alger, 1847.) 6 Leo Africanus. (Ramusio, torn. i. p. 67.) 



the same persons as were congratulated on their persever- 
ance in the Christian faith by Charles V after the capture 
of Tunis in 1535.^ 

This is the last we hear of the native Christian Church 
in North Africa. The very fact of its so long survival 
would militate against any supposition of forced conversion, 
even if we had not abundant evidence of the tolerant spirit 
of the Arab rulers of the various North African kingdoms, 
who employed Christian soldiers, ^ granted by frequent 
treaties the free exercise of their religion to Christian 
merchants and settlers,^ and to whom Popes ^ recommended 
the care of the native Christian population, while exhorting 
the latter to serve their Muhammadan rulers faithfull}^^ 

1 Pavy, vol. i. p. vii. 

2 De Mas Latrie (2), pp. 61-2, 266-7. L. del Marmol-Caravajal: De 
I'Afrique, tome ii. p. 54. (Paris, 1667.) 

3 De Mas Latrie (2), p. 192. 

* e.g. Innocent III, Gregory VII, Gregory IX and Innocent IV. 
^ De Mas Latrie (2), p. 273. 




In 711 the victorious Arabs introduced Islam into Spain : 
in 1502 an edict of Ferdinand and Isabella forbade the 
exercise of the Muhammadan religion throughout the 
kingdom. During the centuries that elapsed between these 
two dates, Muslim Spain had wTitten one of the brightest 
pages in the history of mediaeval Europe. Her influence 
had passed through Provence into the other countries of 
Europe, bringing into birth a new poetry and a new culture, 
and it was from her that Christian scholars received what 
of Greek philosophy and science they had to stimulate 
their mental activity up to the time of the Renaissance. 
But these triumphs of the civilised life — art and poetry, 
science and philosophy — we must pass over here and fix 
our attention on the religious condition of Spain under the 
Muslim rule. 

When the Muhammadans first brought their religion into 
Spain they found Catholic Christianity firmly established 
after its conquest over Arianism. The sixth Council of 
Toledo had enacted that all kings were to swear that they 
would not suffer the exercise of any other religion but the 
Catholic, and would vigorously enforce the law against all 
dissentients, while a subsequent law forbade any one under 
pain of confiscation of his property and perpetual imprison- 
ment, to call in question the Holy Catholic and Apostolic 
Church, the Evangelical Institutions, the definitions of the 
Fathers, the decrees of the Church, and the Hol}^ Sacraments. 
The clergy had gained for their order a preponderating 
influence in the affairs of the state ; ^ the bishops and chief 

* Baudissin, p. 22. 


ecclesiastics sat in the national councils, which met to 
settle the most important business of the realm, ratified 
the election of the king and claimed the right to depose 
him if he refused to abide by their decrees. The Christian 
clergy took advantage of their power to persecute the Jews, 
who formed a very large community in Spain; edicts of 
a brutally severe character were passed against such as 
refused to be baptised ;i and they consequently hailed the 
invading Arabs as their deliverers from such cruel oppres- 
sion, they garrisoned the captured cities on behalf of the 
conqueror and opened the gates of towns that were being 
besieged. 2 

The Muhammadans received as warm a welcome from the 
slaves, whose condition under the Gothic rule was a very 
miserable one, and whose knowledge of Christianity was 
too superficial to have any weight when compared with the 
liberty and numerous advantages they gained, by throwing 
in their lot with the Muslims. 

These down-trodden slaves were the first converts to 
Islam in Spain. The remnants of the heathen population 
of which we find mention as late as a.d. 693,^ probably 
followed their example. Many of the Christian nobles, also, 
whether from genuine conviction or from other motives, 
embraced the new creed.* Many converts were won, too, 
from the lower and middle classes, who may well have 
embraced Islam, not merely outwardly, but from genuine 
conviction, turning to it from a religion whose ministers 
had left them ill-instructed and uncared for, and busied 
with worldly ambitions had plundered and oppressed their 
flocks. 5 Having once become Muslims, these Spanish 
converts showed themselves zealous adherents of their 
adopted faith, and they and their children joined themselves 
to the Puritan party of the rigid Muhammadan theologians 
as against the careless and luxurious life of the Arab 

At the time of the Muhammadan conquest the old Gothic 
virtues are said by Christian historians to have declined 

^ Helfferich, p. 68. 2 Makkari, vol. i. pp. 280-2. 

* Baudissin, p. 7. * Dozy {2), tome ii. pp. 45-6. 

' A. Miiller, vol. ii, p. 463. * Dozy {2), tome ii. pp. 44-6. 


and given place to effeminacy and corruption, so that the 
Muhammadan rule appeared to them to be a punishment 
sent from God on those who had gone astray into the paths 
of vice ; ^ but such a statement is too frequent a common- 
place of the ecclesiastical historian to be accepted in the 
absence of contemporary evidence. ^ 

But certainly as time went on, matters do not seem to 
have mended themselves ; and when Christian bishops took 
part in the revels of the Muhammadan court, when episcopal 
sees were put up to auction and persons suspected to be 
atheists appointed as shepherds of the faithful, and these 
in their turn bestowed the office of the priesthood on low 
and unworthy persons,^ we may well suppose that it was 
not only in the province of Elvira "* that Christians turned 
from a religion, the corrupt lives of whose ministers had 
brought it into discredit,^ and sought a more congenial 
atmosphere for the moral and spiritual life in the pale of 

Had ecclesiastical writers cared to chronicle them, Spain 
would doubtless be found to offer instances of many a 
man leaving the Christian Church like Bodo, a deacon at 
the French court in the reign of Louis the Pious, who in 
A.D. 838 became a Jew, in order that (as he said), forsaking 
his sinful life, he might " abide steadfast in the law of the 
Lord." 6 

^ So St. Boniface (a.d. 745, Epist. Ixii.). " Sicut aliis gentibus Hispaniae 
et Provinciae et Burgundionum populis contigit, qua; sic a Deo recedentes 
fornicatae sunt, donee index omnipotens talium criminum ultrices poenas 
per ignorantiam legis Dei et per Saracenos venire et saevire permisit." 
(Migne: Patr. Lat., torn. Ixxxix. p. 761.) Eulogius : lib. i. § 30. "In 
cuius (i. e. gentis Saracenicae) ditione nostro compellente facinore sceptrum 
Hispaniae translatum est." (Migne : Patr. Lat., torn. cxv. p. 761.) Similarly 
Alvar (2), § 18. " Et probare nostro vitio inlatum intentabo flagellum. 
Nostra haec, fratres, nostra desidia peperit mala, nostra impuritas, nostra 
levitas, nostra morum obsccenitas . . . unde tradidit nos Dominus qui 
iustitiam diligit, et cuius vultus aequitatem decernit, ipsi bestiae con- 
rodendos " (pp. 531-2). 

2 Dozy (3), tome i. pp. 15-20. Whishaw, pp. 38, 44. 

3 Samson, pp. 377-8, 381. 

* Dozy (2), tome ii. p. 210. 

* Bishop Egila, who was sent to Southern Spain by Pope Hadrian I, 
towards the end of the eighth century, on a mission to counteract the 
growing influence of Muslim thought, denounces the Spanish priests who 
lived in concubinage with married women. (Helfferich, p. 83.) 

* Alvari Cordubensis, Epist. xix. " Ob meritum asternae retributionis 
devovi me sedulum in lege Domini consistere." (Migne: Patr. Lat., torn, 
cxxi. p. 512.) 


It is very possible, too, that the lingering remains of the 
old Gothic Arianism — of which, indeed, there had been 
some slight revival in the Spanish Church just before the 
Arab conquest ^ — may have predisposed men's minds to 
accept the new faith whose Christology was in such close 
agreement with Arian doctrine, ^ and a later age may have 
witnessed parallels to that change of faith which is the 
earliest recorded instance of conversion to Islam in western 
Europe and occurred before the Arab invasion of Spain — 
namely the conversion of a Greek named Theodisclus, who 
succeeded St. Isidore (ob. a.d. 636) as Archbishop of 
Seville ; he was accused of heresy, for maintaining that 
Jesus was not one God in unity with the Father and the 
Holy Spirit, but was rather Son of God by adoption ; he 
was accordingly condemned by an ecclesiastical synod, 
deprived of his archbishopric and degraded from the priest- 
hood. Whereupon he went over to the Arabs and embraced 
Islam among them.^ 

Of forced conversion or anything like persecution in the 
early days of the Arab conquest, we hear nothing. Indeed, 
it was probably in a great measure their tolerant attitude 
towards the Christian religion that facilitated their rapid 
acquisition of the country. The only complaint that the 
Christians could bring against their new rulers for treating 
them differently to their non-Christian subjects, was that 
they had to pay the usual capitation-tax of forty-eight 
dirhams for the rich, twenty-four for the middle classes, 
and twelve for those who made their living by manual 
labour : this, as being in lieu of military service, was levied 
only on the able-bodied males, for women, children, monks, 
the halt, and the blind, and the sick, mendicants and slaves 
were exempted therefrom ; * it must moreover have appeared 

1 Helfferich, pp. 79-80. 

* " Bedenkt man nun, wie wichtig gerade die alttestamentliche Idee des 
lYophetenthums in der Christologie des germanischen Arianismus nachklang 
und auch nach der Annahme des katholischen Dogmas in dem religiosen 
Bewusstsein der Westgothen haften blieb, so wird man es sehr erklarlich 
finden, dass unmittelbar nach dem Einfall der Araber die verwandten 
Vorstellnngen des Mohammedanismus unter den geknechteten Christen 
aiiftauchten." (Helfferich, p. 82.) 

' Lucpe Diaconi Tudensis Chronicon Mundi. (Andreas Schottus : 
Hi=pani;c lUustratae, tom. iv. p. 53.) (Francofurti, 1603-8.) 

* Dozy (2), tome ii. p. 41. Whishaw, p. 17. 


the less oppressive as being collected by the Christian 
officials themselves. 1 

Except in the case of offences against the Muslim religious 
law, the Christians were tried by their own judges and in 
accordance with their own laws.^ They were left undis- 
turbed in the exercise of their religion ; ^ the sacrifice of 
the mass was offered, with the swinging of censers, the ringing 
of the bell, and all the other solemnities of the Catholic 
ritual; the psalms were chanted in the choir, sermons 
preached to the people, and the festivals of the Church 
observed in the usual manner. They do not appear to 
have been condemned, like their co-religionists in Syria 
and Egypt, to wear a distinctive dress as sign of their 
humiliation, and in the ninth century at least, the Christian 
laity wore the same kind of costume as the Arabs.'* They 
were at one time even allowed to build new churches. ^ 

We read also of the founding ^ of several fresh monasteries 
in addition to the numerous convents both for monks and 
nuns that flourished undisturbed by the Muhammadan rulers. 
The monks could appear publicly in the woollen robes of 
their order and the priest had no need to conceal the mark 
of his sacred office,'^ nor at the same time did their religious 
profession prevent the Christians from being entrusted with 
high offices at court, ^ or serving in the Muslim armies.^ 

1 Dozy (2), tome ii. p. 39. - JJaudisyin, pp. ii-ij, 196. 

3 Eulogius : Mem. Sanct., lib. i. § 30, " inter ipsos sine molestia lldei 
degimus " (p. 761). Id., ib., lib. i. § 18, " Quos nulla praesidialis violentia 
fidem suam nej^are compulit, nee a cult'i sanctae pi?equc religionis amovit 
(P- 751)- John of Gorz (who visited Spain about the middle of the tenth 
century) § 124, " (Christiani), qui in regno eius libere divinis suisque rebus 

A Spanish bishop thus described the condition of the Christians to John 
of Gorz. " Peccatis ad hasc devoluti sumus, ut paganorum subiaceainus 
ditioni. Resistere potestati verbo proliibemur apostoli. Tantum hoc 
unum relictum est solatii, quod in tant^e calamitatis malo legibus nos pro- 
priis uti non prohibent ; qui quos diligentes Christianitatis viderint observa- 
tores, colunt et amplectuntur, simul ipsorum convictu delectantur. Pro 
tempore igitur hoc videmur tenere consilii, ut quia religionis nulla infertur 
iactura, cetera eis obsequamur, iussisque eorum in quantum fidem non 
impediunt obtemperemus " § 122 (p. 302). 

* Baudissin, pp. 16-17. 

* Eulogius, ob. S59 (Mem. Sanct. lib. iii. c 3) speaks of churches recenlly 
erected (ecclesias nuper structas). The chronicle falsely ascribed to 
Luitprand records the erection of a church at Cordova in 895 (p. 11 13). 

* Eulogius : Mem. Sanct., lib. iii. c. 11 (p. 812). 
' Baudissin, p. 16. 

^ Id. p. 21, and John of Gorz, § 128 (p. 306). 
' Whishaw, pp. 272, 301. 


Certainly those Christians who could reconcile themselves 
to the loss of pohtical power had little to complain of, and 
it is very noticeable that during the whole of the eighth 
century we hear of only one attempt at revolt on their 
part, namely at Beja, and in this they appear to have 
followed the lead of an Arab chief. ^ Those who migrated 
into French territory in order that they might live under a 
Christian rule, certainly fared no better than the co-religion- 
ists they had left behind. In 812 Charlemagne interfered 
to protect the exiles who had followed him on his retreat 
from Spain from the exactions of the imperial officers. 
Three years later Louis the Pious had to issue another 
edict on their behalf, in spite of which they had soon again 
to complain against the nobles who robbed them of the 
lands that had been assigned to them. But the evil was 
only checked for a little time to break out afresh, and all 
the edicts passed on their behalf did not avail to make the 
lot of these unfortunate exiles more tolerable, and in the 
Cagots (i.e. canes Gothi), a despised and ill-treated class of 
later times, we probably meet again the Spanish colony 
that fled away from Muslim rule to throw themselves upon 
the mercy of their Christian co-religionists. 2 

The toleration of the Muhammadan government towards 
its Christian subjects in Spain and the freedom of inter- 
course between the adherents of the two religions brought 
about a certain amount of assimilation in the two com- 
munities. Inter-marriages became frequent ; ^ Isidore of 
Beja, who fiercely inveighs against the Muslim conquerors, 
records the marriage of 'Abd al-'Aziz, the son of Miisa, with 
the widow of King Roderic, without a word of blame.* 
Many of the Christians adopted Arab names, and in outward 
observances imitated to some extent their Muhammadan 
neighbours, e.g. many were circumcised,^ and in matters 

1 Dozy (2), tome ii. p. 42. 2 Baudissin, pp. 96-7. 

^ See the letter of Pope Hadrian I to the Spanish bishops : " Porro diversa 
capitula quee ex ilUs audivimus partibus, id est, quod multi dicentes se 
catholicos esse, communem vitam gerentes cum ludaeis et non baptizatis 
paganis, tam in escis quamque in potu et in diversis erroribus nihil pollui 
se inquiunt : et illud quod inhibitum est, ut nulh liceat iugum ducere cum 
infidelibus, ipsi enim fiUas suas cum alio benedicent, et sic populo gentih 
tradentur." (Migne : Patr. Lat., tome xcviii. p. 385.) 

* Isidori Pacensis Chronicon, § 42 (p. 1266). 

5 Alvar : Indie. Lum., § 35 (p. 53). John of Gorz, § 123 (p. 303). 


of food and drink followed the practice of the " unbaptized 
pagans." ^ 

The very term Muzarabes (i. e. must'aribin or Arabicised) 
apphed to the Spanish Christians hving under Arab rule, 
is significant of the tendencies that were at work. The 
study of Arabic very rapidly began to displace that of Latin 
throughout the country, ^ so that the language of Christian 
theology came gradually to be neglected and forgotten. 
Even some of the higher clergy rendered themselves 
ridiculous by their ignorance of correct Latinity.^ It could 
hardly be expected that the laity would exhibit more 
zeal in such a matter than the clergy, and in 854 a Spanish 
writer brings the following complaint against his Christian 
fellow-countrymen : — " While we are investigating their 
(i. e. the Muslim) sacred ordinances and meeting together 
to study the sects of their philosophers — or rather philo- 
braggers — not for the purpose of refuting their errors, but 
for the exquisite charm and for the eloquence and beauty 
of their language — neglecting the reading of the Scriptures, 
we are but setting up as an idol the number of the beast. 
(Apoc. xiii. 18.) Where nowadays can we find any learned 
layman who, absorbed in the study of the Holy Scriptures, 
cares to look at the works of any of the Latin Fathers ? 
Who is there with any zeal for the writings of the Evangelists, 
or the Prophets, or Apostles ? Our Christian young men, 
with their elegant airs and fluent speech, are showy in their 
dress and carriage, and are famed for the learning of the 
gentiles ; intoxicated with Arab eloquence they greedily 
handle, eagerly devour and zealously discuss the books of 
the Chaldeans (i.e. Muhammadans) , and make them known 
by praising them with every flourish of rhetoric, knowing 
nothing of the beauty of the Church's literature, and looking 
down with contempt on the streams of the Church that flow 
forth from Paradise ; alas ! the Christians are so ignorant 

1 Letter of Hadrian I, p. 385. John of Gorz, § 123 (p. 303). 

^ Some Arabic verses of a Christian poet of the eleventh century are still 
extant, which exhibit considerable skill in handling the language and 
metre. (Von Schack, II. 95.) 

3 Abbot Samson gives us specimens of the bad Latin written by some 
of the ecclesiastics of his time, e.g. " Cum contempti essemus simplicitas 
Christiana," but his correction is hardly much better, " contenti essemus 
simplicitati Christianas " (pp. 404, 406). 


of their own law, the Latins pay so httle attention to their 
own language, that in the whole Christian flock there is 
hardly one man in a thousand who can write a letter to 
inquire after a friend's health intelligibly, while you may 
find a countless rabble of all kinds of them who can learnedly 
roll out the grandiloquent periods of the Chaldean tongue. 
They can even make poems, every line ending with the 
same letter, which display high flights of beauty and more 
skill in handling metre than the gentiles themselves possess. "^ 

In fact the knowledge of Latin so much declined in one 
part of Spain that it was found necessary to translate the 
ancient Canons of the Spanish Church and the Bible into 
Arabic for the use of the Christians. ^ 

While the brilliant literature of the Arabs exercised such a 
fascination and was so zealously studied, those who desired 
an education in Christian literature had little more than 
the materials that had been employed in the training of the 
barbaric Goths, and could with difficulty find teachers to 
induct them even into this low level of culture. As time 
went on this want of Christian education increased more 
and more. In 1125 the Muzarabes wrote to King Alfonso 
of Aragon : " We and our fathers have up to this time been 
brought up among the gentiles, and having been baptised, 
freely observe the Christian ordinances ; but we have never 
had it in our power to be fully instructed in our divine 
religion ; for, subject as we are to the infidels who have 
long oppressed us, we have never ventured to ask for teachers 
from Rome or France ; and they have never come to us 
of their own accord on account of the barbarity of the 
heathen whom we obey." ^ 

From such close intercourse with the Muslims and so 
diligent a study of their literature — when we find even so 
bigoted an opponent of Islam as Alvar* acknowledging that 
the Qur'an was composed in such eloquent and beautiful 
language that even Christians could not help reading and 

1 Alvar : Indie. Lum., § 35 (pp. 554-6)- 

^ Von Schack, vol. ii. p. 96. ' Ordcric Vitalis, p. 928. 

* Alvar : Ind. Lum., § 29. " Compositionem verborum, et preces omnium 
eius membi-orum quotidie pro eo eleganti facundia, et venusto confectas 
cloquio, nos hodie per eorum vokimina et oculis legimus ct plerumquc 
miramur." (Migne : Patr. Lat., tome cxxi. p. 546.) 


admiring it — we should naturally expect to find signs of a 
religious influence : and such indeed is the case. Elipandus, 
bishop of Toledo (ob. 810), an exponent of the heresy of 
Adoptionism — according to which the Man Christ Jesus 
was Son of God by adoption and not by nature — is expressly 
said to have arrived at these heretical views through his 
frequent and close intercourse with the Muhammadans.i 
This new doctrine appears to have spread quickly over a 
great part of Spain, while it was successfully propagated in 
Septimania, which was under French protection, by Felix, 
bishop of Urgel in Catalonia. ^ Felix was brought before 
a council, presided over by Charlemagne, and made to abjure 
his error, but on his return to Spain he relapsed into his 
old heresy, doubtless (as was suggested by Pope Leo III 
at the time) owing to his intercourse with the pagans 
(meaning thereby the Muhammadans) who held similar 
views. 3 When prominent churchmen were so profoundly 
influenced by their contact with Muhammadans, we may 
judge that the influence of Islam upon the Christians of Spain 
was very considerable, indeed in a.d. 936 a council was held 
at Toledo to consider the best means of preventing this inter- 
course from contaminating the purity of the Christian faith.* 
It may readily be understood how these influences of 
Islamic thought and practice — added to definite efforts at 
conversion ^ — would lead to much more than a mere approxi- 
mation and would ver}^ speedily swell the number of the 
converts to Islam so that their descendants, the so-called 
Muwallads — a term denoting those not of Arab blood — soon 
formed a large and important party in the state, indeed 
the majority of the population of the country, "^ and as early 

1 Enhueber, § 26, p. 353. ^ Helfferich, p. 88. 

3 " Postmodum transgressus legem Dei, fugiens ad paganos consentaneos, 
pcriuralus effectus est." Frobenii dissertatio de haeresi Elipandi et Felicis, 
§ xxiv. (Migne : Patr. Lat., tome ci. p. 313.) 

* Pseudo-Luitprandi Chronicon, § 341 (p. 11 15). " Basilius Toletanum 
concilium contrahit ; quo providetur, ne Christiani detrimentum accipere.nt 
convictu Saracenorum." 

* There is little record of such, but they seem referred to in the following 
sentences of Eulogius (Liber Apologeticus Martyrum, § 20), on Muham- 
mad : " Cuius quidem erroris insaniam, praedicationis deliramenta, et 
impi?e novitatis praecepta quisquis catholicorum cognoscere cupit, evidentius 
ab eiusdem sectae cultoribus perscrutando advertet. Quoniam sacrum se 
quidpiam tenere et credere autumantes, non modo privatis, sed apertis 
vocibus vatis sui dogmata praedicant." (Migne : Patr. Lat., tome cxv. 
p. 862.) * Dozy (2), tome ii. p. 53. 


as the beginning of the ninth century we read of attempts 
made by them to shake off the Arab rule, and on several 
occasions later they come forward actively as a national 
party of Spanish Muslims. 

We have little or no details of the history of the conversion 
of these New-Muslims. Instances appeared to have oc- 
curred right up to the last days of Muslim rule, for when 
the army of Ferdinand and Isabella captured Malaga in 
1487, it is recorded that all the renegade Christians found 
in the city were tortured to death with sharp-pointed 
reeds, and in the capitulation that secured the submission 
of Purchena two years later, an express promise was made 
that renegades would not be forced to return to Christianity. ^ 
Some few apostatised to escape the payment of some 
penalty inflicted by the law-courts. ^ But the majority of 
the converts were no doubt won over by the imposing 
influence of the faith of Islam itself, presented to them as 
it was with all the glamour of a brilliant civilisation, having 
a poetry, a philosophy and an art well calculated to attract 
the reason and dazzle the imagination : while in the lofty 
chivalry of the Arabs there was free scope for the exhibition 
of manly prowess and the knightly virtues — a career closed 
to the conquered Spaniards that remained true to the 
Christian faith. Again, the learning and literature of the 
Christians must have appeared very poor and meagre when 
compared with that of the Muslims, the study of which 
may well by itself have served as an incentive to the adop- 
tion of their religion. Besides, to the devout mind Islam in 
Spain could offer the attractions of a pious and zealous 
Puritan party with the orthodox Muslim theologians at 
its head, which at times had a preponderating influence in 
the state and struggled earnestly towards a reformation of 
faith and morals. 

Taking into consideration the ardent religious feeling that 
animated the mass of the Spanish Muslims and the provoca- 
tion that the Christians gave to the Muhammadan govern- 
ment through their treacherous intrigues with their co- 
religionists over the border, the history of Spain under 
Muhammadan rule is singularly free from persecution. 
^ Lea, The Moriscos, pp. 17, 18. ^ Samson, p. 379. 


With the exception of three or four cases of genuine martyr- 
dom, the only approach to anything Hke persecution during 
the whole period of the Arab rule is to be found in the severe 
measures adopted by the Muhammadan government to 
repress the madness for voluntary martyrdom that broke 
out in Cordova in the ninth century. At this time a fanatical 
party came into existence among the Christians in this part 
of Spain (for apparently the Christian Church in the rest 
of the country had no sympathy with the movement), 
which set itself openly and unprovokedly to insult the 
religion of the Muslims and blaspheme their Prophet, with 
the deliberate intention of incurring the penalty of death by 
such misguided assertion of their Christian bigotry. 

This strange passion for self-immolation displayed itself 
mainly among priests, monks and nuns between the years 
850 and 860. It would seem that brooding, in the silence 
of their cloisters, over the decline of Christian influence and 
the decay of religious zeal, they went forth to win the 
martyr's crown — of which the toleration of their infidel 
rulers was robbing them — by means of fierce attacks on 
Islam and its founder. Thus, for example, a certain monk, 
by name Isaac, came before the Qadi and pretended that 
he wished to be instructed in the faith of Islam; when the 
Qadi had expounded to him the doctrines of the Prophet, 
he burst out with the words : "He hath lied unto you 
(may the curse of God consume him !), who, full of wicked- 
ness, hath led so many men into perdition, and doomed them 
with himself to the pit of hell. Filled with Satan and practis- 
ing Satanic jugglery, he hath given you a cup of deadly wine 
to work disease in you, and will expiate his guilt with 
everlasting damnation. Why do ye not, being endowed 
with understanding, deliver yourselves from such dangers ? 
Why do ye not, renouncing the ulcer of his pestilential 
doctrines, seek the eternal salvation of the Gospel of the 
faith of Christ ? " ^ On another occasion two Christians 
forced their way into a mosque and there reviled the Muham- 
madan religion, which, they declared, would very speedily 
bring upon its followers the destruction of hell-fire. ^ Though 

^ Eulogius : Mem. Sanct. Pref., § 2. (Migne, torn. cxv. p. 737.) 
* Id. c. xiii. (p. 794). 


the number of such fanatics was not considerable,^ the 
Muhammadan government grew alarmed, fearing that such 
contempt for their authority and disregard of their laws 
against blasphemy, argued a widespread disaffection and 
a possible general insurrection, for in fact, in 853 Muham- 
mad I had to send an army against the Christians at Toledo, 
who, incited by Eulogius, the chief apologist of the martyrs, 
had risen in revolt on the news of the sufferings of their 
co-religionists. 2 He is said to have ordered a general 
massacre of the Christians, but when it was pointed out 
that no men of any intelligence or rank among the Christians 
had taken part in such doings^ (for Alvar himself complains 
that the majority of the Christian priests condemned the 
martyrs ^), the king contented himself with putting into 
force the existing laws against blasphemy with the utmost 
rigour. The moderate party in the Church seconded the 
efforts of the government ; the bishops anathematised the 
fanatics, and an ecclesiastical council that was held in 852 
to discuss the matter agreed upon methods of repression ^ 
that eventually quashed the movement. One or two 
isolated cases of martyrdom are recorded later — the last 
in 983, after which there was none as long as the Arab rule 
lasted in Spain.*' 

But under the Berber dynasty of the Almoravids at the 

1 The number of the martyrs is said not to have exceeded forty. (W. H. 
Prescott : History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, vol. i. p. 342, n.) 
(London 1846.) 2 Dozy (2), tome ii. pp. 161-2. 

^ Eulogius: Mem. Sanct. I, iii. c. vii. (p. 805). "Pro eo quod nullus 
sapiens, nemo urbanus, nuUusque procerum Christianorum huiusce modi 
rem perpetrasset, idcirco non debere universes perimere asserebant, quos 
non prasit personalis dux ad prsehum." 

* Alvar : Ind. Lum., § 14. " Nonne ipsi qui videbantur columnae, qui 
putabantur Ecclesiae petrae, qui credebantur electi, nullo cogente, nemine 
provocante, iudicem adierunt, et in praesentia Cynicorum, imo Epicureorum, 
Dei martyres infamaverunt ? Nonne pastores Christi, doctores Ecclesiae, 
episcopi, abbates, presbyteri, proceres et magnati, haereticos eos esse publice 
clamaverunt ? et publica professione sine desquisitione, absque interroga- 
tione, quae nee imminente mortis sententia erant dicenda, spontanea 
voluntate, et libero mentis arbitrio, protulerunt ? " (Migne : torn. cxxi. 

P- 529.) 

^ Alvar : Indie. Lum., § 15. " Quid obtendendum est de illis quos 
ecclesiastice interdiximus, et a quibus ne aliquando ad martyrii surgerent 
palmam iuramentum extorsimus ? quibus errores gentilium infringere 
vetuimus, et maledictum ne maledictionibus impeterent ? Evangelio et 
cruce educta vi iurare improbiter fecimus, imo feraliter et belluino terrore 
coegimus, minantes inaudita supplicia, et monstruosa promittentes trunca- 
tionum membrorum varia et horrenda dictu audituve flagella ? " (Migne : 
torn. cxxi. p. 530.) ® Baudissin, p. 199. 


beginning of the twelfth century, there was an outburst of 
fanaticism on tlie part of the theological zealots of Islam 
in which the Christians had to suffer along with the Jews 
and the liberal section of the Muhammadan population — 
the philosophers, the poets and the men of letters. But 
such incidents are exceptions to the generally tolerant 
character of the Muhammadan rulers of Spain towards their 
Christian subjects. 

One of the Spanish Muhammadans who was driven out 
of his native country in the last expulsion of the Moriscoes 
in 1610, while protesting against the persecutions of the 
Inquisition, makes the following vindication of the tolera- 
tion of his co-religionists : " Did our victorious ancestors 
ever once attempt to extirpate Christianity out of Spain, 
when it was in their power ? Did they not suffer your fore- 
fathers to enjoy the free use of their rites at the same time 
that they wore their chains ? Is not the absolute injunction 
of our Prophet, that whatever nation is conquered by 
Musalman steel, should, upon the payment of a moderate 
annual tribute, be permitted to persevere in their own 
pristine persuasion, how absurd soever, or to embrace what 
other belief they themselves best approved of ? If there 
may have been some examples of forced conversions, they 
are so rare as scarce to deserve mentioning, and only 
attempted by men who had not the fear of God, and the 
Prophet, before their eyes, and who, in so doing, have 
acted directly and diametrically contrary to the holy precepts 
and ordinances of Islam which cannot, without sacrilege, 
be violated by any who would be held worthy of the honour- 
able epithet of Musulman. . . . You can never produce, 
among us, any bloodthirsty, formal tribunal, on account of 
different persuasions in points of faith, that anywise ap- 
proaches your execrable Inquisition. Our arms, it is true, 
are ever open to receive all who are disposed to embrace 
our rehgion ; but we are not allowed by our sacred Qur'an 
to tyrannise over consciences. Our proselytes have all 
imaginable encouragement, and have no sooner professed 
God's Unity and His Apostle's mission but they become one 
of us, without reserve; taking to wife our daughters, and 
being employed in posts of trust, honour and profit; we 


contenting ourselves with only obliging them to wear our 
habit, and to seem true believers in outward appearance, 
without ever offering to examine their consciences, provided 
they do not openly revile or profane our religion : if they 
do that, we indeed punish them as they deserve ; since their 
conversion was voluntarily, and was not by compulsion." ^ 

This very spirit of toleration was made one of the main 
articles in an account of the " Apostacies and Treasons of the 
Moriscoes," drawn up by the Archbishop of Valencia in 1602 
when recommending their expulsion to Philip III, as follows : 
" That they commended nothing so much as that hberty of 
conscience, in all matters of religion, which the Turks, and 
all other Muhammadans, suffer their subjects to enjoy." ^ 

What deep roots Islam had struck in the hearts of the 
Spanish people may be judged from the fact that when the 
last remnant of the Moriscoes was expelled from Spain in 
1610, these unfortunate people still clung to the faith of 
their fathers, although for more than a century they had 
been forced to outwardly conform to the Christian religion, 
and in spite of the emigrations that had taken place since 
the fall of Granada, nearly 500,000 are said to have been 
expelled at that time.^ Whole towns and villages were 
deserted and the houses fell into ruins, there being no one 
to rebuild them.^ These Moriscoes were probably all 
descendants of the original inhabitants of the country, 
with little or no admixture of Arab blood ; the reasons that 
may be adduced in support of this statement are too lengthy 
to be given here; one point only in the evidence may be 
mentioned, derived from a letter written in 131 1, in which 
it is stated that of the 200,000 Muhammadans then living 
in the city of Granada, not more than 500 were of Arab 
descent, all the rest being descendants of converted 
Spaniards.^ Finally, it is of interest to note that even up to 
the last days of its power in Spain, Islam won converts to the 
faith, for the historian, when writing of events that occurred 
in the year 1499, seven years after the fall of Granada, 
draws attention to the fact that among the Moors were a few 
Christians who had lately embraced the faith of the Prophet.® 

1 Morgan, vol. ii. pp. 297-8, 345. ^ Id. p. 310. 

^ Lea, The Moriscos, p. 259. * Morgan, vol. ii. p. 337. 

6 Id. p. 289. « Stirling-Maxwell, vol. i. p. 115. 



We first hear of the Ottoman Turks at the commence- 
ment of the thirteenth century, when fleeing before the 
Mongols, to the number of about 50,000, they came to the 
help of the Sultan of Iconium, and in return for their services 
both against the Mongols and the Greeks, had assigned to 
them a district in the north-west of Asia Minor. This was 
the nucleus of the future Ottoman empire, which, increasing 
at first by the absorption of the petty states into which the 
Saljiiq Turks had split up, afterwards crossed over into 
Europe, annexing kingdom after kingdom, until its victori- 
ous growth received a check before the gates of Vienna in 

From the earliest days of the extension of their kingdom 
in Asia Minor, the Ottomans exercised authority over 
Christian subjects, but it was not until the ancient capital 
of the Eastern empire fell into their hands in 1453 that the 
relations between the Muslim Government and the Christian 
Church were definitely established on a fixed basis. One of 
the first steps taken by Muhammad II, after the capture of 
Constantinople and the re-establishment of order in that 

"■ This is no place to give a history of these territorial acquisitions, which 
may be briefly summed up thus. In 1353 the Ottoman Turks first passed 
over into Europe and a few years later Adrianople was made their European 
capital. Under Bayazld (i 389-1402), their dominions stretched from the 
^gaean to the Danube, embracing all Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thessaly and 
Thrace, with the exception of Chalkidike and the district just round Con 
stantinople. Murad II (1421-1451) occupied Chalkidike and pushed his 
conquests to the Adriatic. Muhammad II (1451-1481) by the overthrow 
of Constantinople, Albania, Bosnia and Servia, became master of the whole 
South-Eastern peninsula, with the exception of the parts of the coast held 
by Venice and Montenegro. Sulayman II (i 520-1 566) added Hungary and 
made the ^gaean an Ottoman sea. In the seventeenth century Crete was 
won and Podolia ceded by Poland. 

L 145 


city, was to secure the allegiance of the Christians, by 
proclaiming himself the protector of the Greek Church, 
Persecution of the Christians was strictly forbidden ; a 
decree was granted to the newly elected patriarch which 
secured to him and his successors and the bishops under 
him, the enjoyment of the old privileges, revenues and 
exemptions enjoyed under the former rule. Gennadios, 
the first patriarch after the Turkish conquest, received from 
the hands of the Sultan himself the pastoral staff, which 
was the sign of his office, together with a purse of a thousand 
golden ducats and a horse with gorgeous trappings, on which 
he was privileged to ride with his train through the city.^ 
But not only was the head of the Church treated with all the 
respect he had been accustomed to receive from the Christian 
emperors, but further he was invested with extensive civil 
power. The patriarch's court sat to decide all cases between 
Greek and Greek : it could impose fines, imprison offenders 
in a prison provided for its own special use, and in some cases 
even condemn to capital punishment : while the ministers 
and officials of the government were directed to enforce its 
judgments. The complete control of spiritual and ecclesi- 
astical matters (in which the Turkish government, unlike 
the civil power of the Byzantine empire, never interfered), 
was left entirely in his hands and those of the grand Synod 
which he could summon whenever he pleased; and hereby 
he could decide all matters of faith and dogma without fear 
of interference on the part of the state. As a recognised 
officer of the imperial government, he could do much for 
the alleviation of the oppressed, by bringing the acts of 
unjust governors to the notice of the Sultan. The Greek 
bishops in the provinces in their turn were treated with 
great consideration and were entrusted with so much 
jurisdiction in civil affairs, that up to modern times they 
have acted in their dioceses almost as if they were Ottoman 
prefects over the orthodox population, thus taking the place 
of the old Christian aristocracy which had been exterminated 
by the conquerors, and we find that the higher clergy were 
generally more active as Turkish agents than as Greek 
priests, and the}^ always taught their people that the Sultan 

^ Phrantzes, pp. 305-6. 



possessed a divine sanction, as the protector of the Orthodox 
Church. A charter was subsequently pubhshed, securing 
to the orthodox the use of such churches as had not been 
confiscated to form mosques, and authorising them to 
celebrate their religious rites publicly according to their 
national usages. ^ 

Consequently, though the Greeks were numerically 
superior to the Turks in all the European provinces of the 
empire, the religious toleration thus granted them, and the 
protection of life and property they enjoyed, soon reconciled 
them to the change of masters and led them to prefer the 
domination of the Sultan to that of any Christian power. 
Indeed, in many parts of the country, the Ottoman con- 
querors were welcomed by the Greeks as their deliverers 
from the rapacious and tyrannous rule of the Franks and 
the Venetians who had so long disputed with Byzantium 
for the possession of the Peloponnesos and some of the 
adjacent parts of Greece; by introducing into Greece the 
feudal sj^stem, these had reduced the people to the miserable 
condition of serfs, and as aliens in speech, race and creed, 
were hated by their subjects, 2 to whom a change of rulers, 
since it could not make their condition worse, would offer 
a possible chance of improving it, and though their deliverers 
were likewise aliens, yet the infidel Turk was infinitely to 
be preferred to the heretical Catholics. ^ The Greeks who 
lived under the immediate government of the Byzantine 
court, were equally unlikely to be averse to a change of 
rulers. The degradation and tyranny that characterised 

^ Finlay, vol. iii. p. 522. Pitzipios, seconde partie, p. 75. M. d'Ohsson, 
vol. iii. p. 52-4. Arminjon, vol. i. p. 16. 

* A traveller who visited Cyprus in 1508 draws the following picture of 
the tyranny of the Venetians in their foreign possessions : " All the in- 
habitants of Cyprus are slaves to the Venetians, being obliged to pay to 
the state a third part of all their increase or income, whether the product 
of their ground or corn, wine, oil, or of their cattle, or any other thing. 
Besides, every man of them is bound to work for the state two days of the 
week wherever they shall please to appoint him : and if any shall fail, by 
reason of some other business of their own, or for indisposition of body, 
then they are made to pay a fine for as many days as they are absent from 
their work : and which is more, there is yearly some tax or other imposed 
on them, with which the poor common people are so flead and pillaged 
that they hardly have wherewithal to keep soul and body together." (The 
Travels of Martin Baumgarten, p. 373.) See also the passages quoted by 
Hackett, History of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, p. 183. 

^ Finlay, vol. iii. p. 502. 


the dynasty of the Palaeologi are frightful to contemplate. 
" A corrupt aristocracy, a tyrannical and innumerable 
clergy, the oppression of perverted law, the exactions of a 
despicable government, and still more, its monopolies, its 
fiscality, its armies of tax and custom collectors, left the 
degraded people neither rights nor institutions, neither 
chance of amelioration nor hope of redress." ^ Lest such 
a judgment appear dictated by a spirit of party bias, a 
contemporary authority may be appealed to in support of 
its correctness. The Russian annalists who speak of the 
fall of Constantinople bring a similar indictment against its 
government. " Without the fear of the law an empire is 
hke a steed without reins. Constantine and his ancestors 
allowed their grandees to oppress the people ; there was no 
more justice in their law courts ; no more courage in their 
hearts; the judges amassed treasures from the tears and 
blood of the innocent ; the Greek soldiers were proud only 
of the magnificence of their dress ; the citizens did not blush 
at being traitors; the soldiers were not ashamed to fly. 
At length the Lord poured out His thunder on these un- 
worthy rulers, and raised up Muhammad, whose warriors 
delight in battle, and whose judges do not betray their 
trust." 2 This last item of praise ^ may sound strange in 
the ears of a generation that has constantly been called upon 
to protest against Turkish injustice; but it is clearly and 
abundantly borne out by the testimony of contemporary 
historians. The Byzantine historian who has handed down 
to us the story of the capture of Constantinople tells us how 
even the impetuous Bayazld was liberal and generous to 
his Christian subjects, and made himself extremely popular 
among them by admitting them freely to his society.* 
Murad II distinguished himself by his attention to the 
administration of justice and by his reforms of the abuses 

^ Urquhart, quoted by Clark : Races of European Turkey, p. 82. 

* Karamsin, vol. v. p. 437. 

3 Martia Crusius writes in the same spirit : " Et mirum est, inter bar- 
baros, in tanta tantag urbis coUuvie, nuUas caedes audiri, vim iniustam non 
ferri, ius cuivis did. Ideo Constantinopolin Sultanus, Refugium totius 
orbis scribit : quod omnes miseri, ibi tutissime latent : quodque omnibus 
(tarn infimis quam summis : tarn Christianis quam infidelibus) iustitia 
administretur." (Turcograecia, p. 487.) (Basileae, 1584.) 

* Phrantzes, p. 81. 


prevalent under the Greek emperors, and punished without 
mercy those of his officials who oppressed any of his subjects.^ 
For at least a century after the fall of Constantinople a 
series of able rulers secured, by a firm and vigorous admini- 
stration, peace and order throughout their dominions, and 
an admirable civil and judicial organisation, if it did not 
provide an absolutely impartial justice for Muslims and 
Christians alike, yet caused the Greeks to be far better off 
than they had been before. They were harassed by fewer 
exactions of forced labour, extraordinary contributions were 
rarely levied, and the taxes they paid were a trifling burden 
compared with the endless feudal obligations of the Franks 
and the countless extortions of the Byzantines. The 
Turkish dominions were certainly better governed and more 
prosperous than most parts of Christian Europe, and the 
mass of the Christian population engaged in the cultivation 
of the soil enjoyed a larger measure of private liberty and of 
the fruits of their labour, under the government of the 
Sultan than their contemporaries did under that of many 
Christian monarchs.^ A great impulse, too, was given to 
the commerical activity of the country, for the early Sultans 
were always ready to foster trade and commerce among their 
subjects, and many of the great cities entered upon an era 
of prosperity when the Turkish conquest had delivered them 
from the paralysing fiscal oppression of the Byzantine 
empire, one of the first of them being Nicaea, which capitu- 
lated to Urkhan in 1330 under the most favourable terms 
after a long-protracted siege. ^ Like the ancient Romans, 
the Ottomans were great makers of roads and bridges, and 
thereby facilitated trade throughout their empire; and 
foreign states were compelled to admit the Greek merchants 
into ports from which they had been excluded in the time of 
the Byzantine emperors, but now sailing under the Ottoman 

^ Phrantzes, p. 92. 

* Finlay, vol. v. pp. 5, 123. Adeney, p. 311. Gerlach, writing in the 
year 1577, says : " Wo Christen oder Juden in den Orten wohnen, da es 
Kadi Oder Richter und Subbassi oder Vogte hat, dass die gemcinen Tiircken 
nicht ihres Gefallens mit ihnen umbgehen dorffen, sind sie viel heber unter 
den Tiircken, dann unter den Christen. Wann sie Jahrlich ihren Tribut 
geben, sind sie hernach frey. Aber in der Christenheit ist das gantze Jahr 
des Gebens kein Ende." (Tage-Buch, p. 413.) 

3 Hertzberg, pp. 467, 646, 650. 


flag, they assumed the dress and manners of Turks, and thus 
secured from the nations of Western Europe the respect and 
consideration which the CathoHcs had hitherto always 
refused to the members of the Greek Church. ^ 

There is, however, one notable exception to this general 
good treatment and toleration, viz. the tribute of Christian 
children, who were forcibly taken from their parents at an 
early age and enrolled in the famous corps of Janissaries. 
Instituted by Urkhan in 1330, it formed for centuries the 
mainstay of the despotic power of the Turkish Sultans, and 
was kept alive by a regular contribution exacted every four 
years, 2 when the officers of the Sultan visited the districts 
on which the tax was imposed, and made a selection from 
among the children about the age of seven. The Muham- 
madan legists attempted to apologise for this inhuman 
tribute by representing these children as the fifth of the 
spoil which the Qur'an assigns to the sovereign,^ and they 
prescribed that the injunction against forcible conversion * 
should be observed with regard to them also, although the 
tender age at which they were placed under the instruction 
of Muslim teachers must have made it practically of none 
effect.^ Christian Europe has always expressed its horror 
at such a barbarous tax, and travellers in the Turkish 
dominions have painted touching pictures of desolated 
homes and of parents weeping for the children torn from 
their arms. But when the corps was first instituted, its 
numbers were rapidly swelled by voluntary accessions from 
among the Christians themselves,^ and the circumstances 
under which this tribute was first imposed may go far to 
explain the apathy which the Greeks themselves appear to 

^ Finlay, vol. v. pp. 156-7. 

* This interval was, however, not a fixed one ; at first, the levy took 
place every seven or five years, but later at more frequent intervals accord- 
ing to the exigencies of the state. (Menzel, p. 52.) Metrophanes Krito- 
poulos, writing in 1625, states that the collectors came to the cities every 
seventh year and that each city had to contribute three or four, or at least 
two boys (p. 205). 

* Qur'an, viii. 42. * Id. x. 99. 100. 

* " On ne for9ait cependant pas les jeunes Chretiens a changer de foi. 
Les principes du gouvernement s'y opposaient aussi bien que les preceptes 
du Cour'ann ; et si des officiers, mus par leur fanatisme, usaient quelquefois 
de contrainte, leur conduite a cet egard pouvait bien etre toleree ; mais elle 
n'etait jamais autorisee par les chefs." (M, d'Ohsson, tome iii. pp. 397-8.) 

* Hertzberg, p. ^72, 


have exhibited. The whole country had been laid waste by 
war, and families were often in danger of perishing with 
hunger ; the children who were thus adopted were in many 
cases orphans, who would otherwise have been left to perish ; 
further, the custom so widely prevalent at that time of 
selling Christians as slaves may have made this tax appear 
less appalling than might have been expected. This custom 
has, moreover, been maintained to have been only a con- 
tinuation of a similar usage that was in force under the 
Byzantine emperors. ^ It has even been said that there was 
seldom any necessity of an appeal to force on the part of the 
officers who collected the appointed number of children, 
but rather that the parents were often eager to have their 
children enrolled in a service that secured for them in many 
cases a brilliant career, and under any circumstances a 
well-cared-for and comfortable existence, since these little 
captives were brought up and educated as if they were the 
Sultan's own children. ^ This institution appears in a less 
barbarous light if it be true that the parents could often 
redeem their children by a money payment.^ Metrophanes 
Kritopoulos, who was Patriarch of Constantinople and 
afterwards of Alexandria, writing in 1625, mentions various 
devices adopted by the Christians for escaping from the 
burden of this tax, e. g. they purchased Muhammadan boys 
and represented them to be Christians, or they bribed the 
collectors to take Christian boys who were of low birth or 
had been badly brought up or such as " deserved hanging."^ 

^ " Sed hoc tristissimum est, quod, ut olim Christiani imperatores, ex 
singulis oppidis, certum numerum liberorum, in quibus egregia indoles prae 
caeteris elucebat, delegerunt : quos ad publica officia militiae togatae et 
bellicffi in Aula educari curarunt : ita Turci, occupato Graecorum imperio, 
idem ius eripiendi patribus familias liberos ingeniis eximiis praeditos, 
usurpant." (David Chytraeus, pp. 12-14.) 

2 Creasy, p. 99. M. d'Ohsson, tome iii. p. 397. Menzel, p. 53. Thomas 
Smith, speaking of such parents, says : " Others, to the great shame and 
dishonour of the Religion, Christians only in name, part with them freely 
and readily enough, not only because they are rid of the trouble and charge 
of them, but in hopes they may, when they are grown up, get some con- 
siderable command in the government." (An Account of the Greek Church, 
p. 12. London, 1680.) In the reign of Murad I, Christian troops were 
employed in collecting this tribute of Christian children. (Finlay, vol. v. 

P- 45-) 

' " Verum tamen hos (liberos) pecunia redimere a conquisitoribus saepe 
parentibus licet." (David Chytraeus, p. 13.) De la Guilletiere mentions 
it in 1669 as one of the privileges of the Athenians. (An Account of a Late 
Voyage to Athens, p. 272. London, 1676.) * Confessio, p. 205. 


Thomas Smith, among others, speaks of the possibiHty of 
buying off the children, so impressed : " Some of their 
parents, out of natural pity and out of a true sense of 
religion, that they may not be thus robbed of their 
children, who hereby lie under a necessity of renouncing 
their Christianity, compound for them at the rate of fifty 
or a hundred dollars, as they are able, or as they can 
work upon the covetousness of the Turks more or less." ^ 
The Christians of certain cities, such as Constantinople, 
and of towns and islands that had made this stipulation at 
the time of their submission to the Turks, or had pur- 
chased this privilege, were exempted from the operation of 
this cruel tax.^ These extenuating circumstances at the 
outset, and the ease with which men acquiesce in any 
established usage — though serving in no way as an excuse 
for so inhuman an institution — may help us to understand 
what a traveller in the seventeenth century calls the " un- 
accountable indifference " ^ with which the Greeks seem 
to have fallen in with this demand of the new government, 
which so materially improved their condition. 

Further, the Christian subjects of the Turkish empire had 
to pay the capitation-tax, in return for protection and in 
lieu of military service. The rates fixed by the Ottoman law 
were 2|, 5 and 10 piastres a head for every full-grown male, 
according to his income,* women and the clergy being 
exempt. 5 In the nineteenth century the rates were 15, 30 
and 60 piastres, according to income.^ Christian writers 
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries generally 
speak of this tax as being a ducat a head,' but it 

^ An Account of the Greek Church, p. 12. (London, 1680.) 

* Menzel, p. 52. Thomas Smith : De Moribus ac Institutis Turcarum, 
p. 81. (Oxonii, 1672.) 3 Hill, p. 174. 

* Joseph von Hammer (2), vol. ii. p. 151. Hans Schiltberger, who was 
captured by the Turks in 1396 and returned home to Munich after thirty- 
two years' captivity, states that the tax the Christians had to pay did not 
amount to more than two pfennig a month. (Reisebuch, p. 92.) 

^ Soli Sacerdotes, quasi in honorem sacri illius, quo funguntur, Deo ita 
ordinante, ministerii hoc factum sit, una cum fccminis, ab hoc tribute pen- 
dendo immunes habentur. (De Graecae Hodierno Statu Epistola, authore 
Thoma Smitho, p. 12.) (Trajecti ad Rhenum, 1698.) 

* Silbernagl, p. 60. 

' Martin Crusius, p. 487; Sansovino, p. 67; Georgieviz, p. 98-9; 
Scheffler, § 56 ; Hertzberg, p. 648 ; De la Jonquiere, p. 267. A work 
published in London in 1595, entitled " The Estate of Christians living 


is also variously described as amounting to 3, 5 or 5| 
crowns or dollars. ^ The fluctuating exchange value of 
the Turkish coinage in the seventeenth century is the 
probable explanation of the latter variations. To estimate 
with any exactitude how far this tax was a burden 
to those who had to pay it, would require a lengthened 
disquisition on the purchasing value of money at that 
period and a comparison with other items of expenditure. ^ 
But by itself it could hardly have formed a valid excuse for 
a change of faith, as Tournefort points out, when writing 
in 1700 of the conversion of the Candiots : "It must be 
confessed, these Wretches sell their Souls a Pennyworth : 
all they get in exchange for their Religion, is a Vest, and the 
Privilege of being exempt from the Capitation-Tax, which is 
not above five Crowns a year." ^ Scheffler also, who is 
anxious to represent the condition of the Christians under 
Turkish rule in as black colours as possible, admits that the 
one ducat a head was a trifling matter, and has to lay stress 
on the extraordinary taxes, war contributions, etc., that 
they were called upon to pay.'* The land taxes were the 

under the subjection of the Turke," states the capitation-tax for male 
children to have been eight shillings (p. 2). Michel Baudin says one sequin 
a head for every male. (Histoire du Serrail, p. 7. Paris, 1662.) 

^ Georgirenes, p. 9; Tournefort, vol. i. p. gi ; Tavernier (3), p. 11. 

^ In a work published by Joseph Georgirenes, Archbishop of Samos, in 
1678, during a visit to London, he gives us an account of the income of his 
own see, the details of which are not likely to have been considered ex- 
tortionate, as they were here set down for the benefit of Enghsh readers : 
in comparing the sums here mentioned, it should be borne in mind that he 
speaks of the capitation-tax as being three crowns or dollars (pp. 8-9). 
" At his (i.e. the Archbishop's) first coming, the Papas or Parish Priest of 
the Church of his Residence presents him fifteen or twenty dollers, they of 
the other Churches according to their Abilities. The first year of his 
coming, every Parish Priest pays him four dollers, and the following year 
two. Every Layman pays him forty-eight aspers " — (In the commercial 
treaty with England, concluded in the year 1675, the value of the dollar 
was fixed at eighty aspers (Finlay, v. 28) ) — " and the following years twenty- 
four. The Samians pay one Doller for a Licence ; all Strangers two ; but 
he that comes after first marriage for a Licence for a second or third, pays 
three or four " (pp. 33-4). =* Tournefort, vol. i. p. 91. 

* Scheffler, § 56. " Was aber auch den Ducaten anbelangt, so werdet 
ihr mit demselben in eurem Sinn ebener massen greulich betrogen. Denn 
es ist zwar wahr, dass der Tiirckische Kayser ordentlich nicht mehr nimt 
als vom Haupt einen Ducaten : aber wo bleiben die ZoUe und ausseror- 
dentliche Anlagen ? nehmen dann seine Konigliche Verweser und Haupt- 
leute nichts ? muss man zu Kriegen nichts ausser ordentlich geben ? . . . 
Was aber die ausser ordentUche Anlagen betrifft; die steigen und fallen 
nach den bosen Zeiten, und miissen von den Tiirckischen Unterthanen so 
wohl gegeben werden als bey uns." 


same both for Christians and Musalmans/ for the old dis- 
tinction between lands on which tithe was paid by the 
Muhammadan proprietor, and those on which Idiaraj was 
paid by the non-Muhammadan proprietor, was not recognised 
by the Ottomans. ^ Whatever sufferings the Christians had 
to endure proceeded from the tyranny of individuals, who 
took advantage of their official position to extort money 
from those under their jurisdiction. Such acts of oppression 
were not only contrary to the Muhammadan law, but were 
rare before the central government had grown weak and 
suffered the corruption and injustice of local authorities to 
go unpunished.^ There is a very marked difference between 
the accounts we have of the condition of the Christians 
during the first two centuries of the Turkish rule in Europe 
and those of a later date, when the period of decadence had 
fully set in. But it is noticeable that in those very times 
in which the condition of the Christians had been most 
intolerable there is least record of conversion to Islam. In 
the eighteenth century, when the condition of the Christians 
was worse than at any other period, we find hardly any 
mention of conversions at all, and the Turks themselves are 
represented as utterly indifferent to the progress of their 
religion and considerably infected with scepticism and 
unbelief.* A further proof that their sufferings have been 
due to misgovernment rather than to religious persecution 
is the fact that Muslims and Christians suffered alike.^ 

1 Finlay, vol. v. pp. 24-5. H. von Moltke : Brief iiber Zustande und 
Begebenheiten in der Tiirkei aus den Jahren 1835 bis 1839, pp. 274, 354. 
(5th ed., Berlin, 1S91.) 2 Hammer (2), vol. i. p. 346. 

^ " The hard lot of the Christian subjects of the Sultan has at all times 
arisen from the fact that the central authority at Constantinople has but 
little real authority throughout the Empire of Turkey. It is the petty 
tyranny of the village officials, sharpened by personal hatred, which has 
instigated those acts of atrocity to which, both in former times, and still 
more at the present day, the Christians in Turkey are subjected. In the 
days of a nation's greatness justice and even magnanimity towards a 
subject race are possible; these, however, are rarely found to exist in the 
time of a nation's decay." (Rev. W. Denton : Servia and the Servians, 
p. 15.' London, 1862.) Gerlach, pp. 49, 52. 

* Businello, pp. 43-4. 

^ " The central government of the Sultan has generally treated its 
Mussulman subjects with as much cruelty and injustice as the conquered 
Christians. The sufferings of the Greeks were caused by the insolence and 
oppression of the ruling class and the corruption that reigned in the Otho- 
man administration, rather than by the direct exercise of the Sultan's power. 
In his private affairs, a Greek had a better chance of obtaining justice from 


The Christians would, however, naturally be more exposed 
to extortion and ill-treatment owing to the difficulties that 
lay in the way of obtaining redress at law, and some of the 
poorest may thus have sought a relief from their sufferings 
in a change of faith. 

But if we except the tribute of the children, to which the 
conquered Greeks seem to have submitted with so little show 
of resistance, and which owed its abolition, not to any revolt 
or insurrection against its continuance, but to the increase 
of the Turkish population and of the number of the renegades 
who were constantly entering the Sultan's service,^ — the 
treatment of their Christian subjects by the Ottoman 
emperors — at least for two centuries after their conquest 
of Greece — exhibits a toleration such as was at that time 
quite unknown in the rest of Europe. The Calvinists of 
Hungary and Transylvania, and the Unitarians of the latter 
country, long preferred to submit to the Turks rather than 
fall into the hands of the fanatical house of Hapsburg ; ^ 

his bishop and the elders of his district than a Turk from the cadi or the 
voivode." (Finlay, vol. vi. pp. 4-5.) 

" It would be a mistake to suppose that the Christians are the only part 
of the population that is oppressed and miserable. Turkish misgovernment 
is uniform, and falls with a heavy hand upon all alike. In some parts of 
the kingdom the poverty of the Mussulmans may be actually worse than 
the poverty of the Christians, and it is their condition which most excites 
the pity of the traveller." (Wilham Forsyth : The Slavonic Provinces 
South of the Danube, pp. 157-8. London, 1876.) 

" All this oppression and misery (i.e. in the north of Asia Minor) falls upon 
the Mohammedan population equally with the Christian." (James 
Bryce : Transcaucasia and Ararat, p. 381.) 

" L'Europe s'imagine que les Chretiens seuls sont soumis, en Turquie, a 
I'arbitraire, aux souSrances, aux avihssements de toute nature, qui naissent 
de I'oppression ; il n'en est rien ! Les musulmans, precisement parce que 
nulle puissance etrangere ne s'interesse a eux, sont peut-etre plus indigne- 
ment spohes, plus courbes sous le joug que ceux qui meconnaissent le pro- 
phete." (De la Jonquiere, p. 507.) 

" To judge from what we have already observed, the lowest order of 
Christians are not in a worse condition in Asia Minor than the same class 
of Turks ; and if the Christians of European Turkey have some advantages 
arising from the effects of the superiority of their numbers over the Turks, 
those of Asia have the satisfaction of seeing that the Turks are as much 
oppressed by the men in power as they are themselves ; and they have to 
deal with a race of Mussulmans generally milder, more religious, and better 
principled than those of Europe." (W. M. Leake : Journal of a Tour in 
Asia Minor, p. 7. London, 1824.) 

Cf. also Laurence Oliphant : The Land of Gilead, pp. 320—3, 446. 
(London, 1880.) 

^ It was in the sixteenth century that the tribute of children fell into 
desuetude, and the last recorded example of its exaction was in the year 
1676. ^ De la Jonquiere, p. 333. Scheffler, § 45-6. Gasztowtt, p. 51. 


and the Protestants of Silesia looked with longing eyes 
towards Turkey, and would gladly have purchased religious 
freedom at the price of submission to the Muslim rule.^ It 
was to Turkey that the persecuted Spanish Jews fled for 
refuge in enormous numbers at the end of the fifteenth 
century, 2 and the Cossacks who belonged to the sect of the 
Old Believers and were persecuted by the Russian State 
Church, found in the dominions of the Sultan the toleration 
which their Christian brethren denied them.^ Well might 
Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch in the seventeenth century, 
congratulate himself when he saw the fearful atrocities that 
the Catholic Poles inflicted on the Russians of the Orthodox 
Eastern Church : " We all wept much over the thousands 
of martyrs who were killed by those impious wretches, the 
enemies of the faith, in these forty or fifty years. The 
number probably amounted to seventy or eighty thousand 
souls. O you infidels ! O you monsters of impurity ! O 
you hearts of stone ! What had the nuns and women done ? 
What the girls and boys and infant children, that you should 
murder them ? . , . And why do I pronounce them (the 
Poles) accursed ? Because they have shown themselves 
more debased and wicked than the corrupt worshippers of 
idols, by their cruel treatment of Christians, thinking to 
abolish the very name of Orthodox. God perpetuate the 
empire of the Turks for ever and ever ! For they take their 

^ " Denn ich hore mit grosser Verwunderung und Bestiirtzung, dass 
nicht allein unter den gemeinen Povel Reden im Schwange gehn, es sey 
unter dem Turcken auch gut wohnen : wann man einen Ducaten von 
Haupt gebe, so ware man frey ; Item er liesse die Religion frey ; man wiirde 
die Kirchen wieder bekommen ; und was vergleichen : sondern dass auch 
andre, die es wol besser verstehen sollten, sich dessen erfreuen, und iiber 
ihr eigen Ungliick frolocken ! welches nicht allein Halssbriichige, sondern 
auch Gottlose Vermessenheiten seynd, die aus keinem andrem Grunde, als 
aus dem Geist der Ketzerey, der zum Auffruhr und gantzlicher Ausreitung 
des Christenthumbs geneigt ist, herkommen." (Scheffler, § 48.) 

^ Hertzberg, p. 650. 

' De la Jonquiere, p. 34. A similar contrast was made in 1605 by 
Richard Staper, an English merchant who had been in Turkey as early as 
1578 : " And notwithstanding that the Turks in general be a most wicked 
people, walking in the works of darkness . . . yet notwithstanding do they 
permit all Christians, both Greeks and Latins, to live in their religion and 
freely to use to their conscience, allowing them churches for their divine 
service, both in Constantinople and very many other places, whereas to the 
contrary by proof of twelve years' residence in Spain I can truly affirm, we 
are not only forced to observe their popish ceremonies, but in danger of life 
and goods " (M. Epstein : The Early History of the Levant Company, 
p. 57. London, 1908.) 


impost, and enter into no account of religion, be their subjects 
Christians or Nazarenes, Jews or Samarians : whereas these 
accursed Poles were not content with taxes and tithes from 
the brethren of Christ, though wilhng to serve them; but 
they subjected them to the authority of the enemies of 
Christ, the tyrannical Jews, who did not even permit them 
to build churches, nor leave them any priests that knew the 
mysteries of their faith." ^ Even in Italy there were men 
who turned longing eyes towards the Turks in the hope that 
as their subjects they might enjoy the freedom and the 
toleration they despaired of enjoying under a Christian 
government. 2 It would seem, then, that Islam was not 
spread by force in the dominion of the Sultan of Turkey, 
and though the want of even-handed justice and the 
oppression of unscrupulous officials in the days of the 
empire's decline, may have driven some Christians to attempt 
to better their condition by a change of faith, such cases 
were rare in the first two centuries of the Turkish rule in 
Europe, to which period the mass of conversions belong. 
It would have been wonderful indeed if the ardour of pro- 
selytising that animated the Ottomans at this time had 
never carried them beyond the bounds of toleration estab- 
lished by their own laws. Yet it has been said by one who 
was a captive among them for twenty-two years that the 
Turks " compelled no one to renounce his faith." ^ Similar 
testimony is borne by others : an Enghsh gentleman who 
visited Turkey in the early part of the seventeenth century, 
tells us that " There is seldom any compulsion of conscience, 
and then not by death, where no criminal offence gives 

^ Macarius, vol. i. pp. 183, 165. Cf. the memorial presented by Polish 
refugees from Russia to the Sublime Porte, in 1853. (Gasztowtt, p. 217.) 

* " Alii speciem sibi quandam confixerunt stultam libertatis . . . quod 
quum sub Christiano consequuturos se desperent, ideo vel Turcam mallent : 
quasi is benignior sit in largienda libertate hac, quam Christianus." (loannis 
Ludovici Vivis De Conditione Vitae Christianorum sub Turca, pp. 220, 225.) 
(Basileae, 1538.) " Quidam obganniunt, liberam esse sub Turca fidem." 
(Othonis Brunfelsii ad Principes et Christianos omnes Oratio, p. 133.) 
(Basileaj, 1538.) Ubertus Folieta, a noble of Genoa, writing about 1577, says, 
" Saepe mecum quaesivi . . . qua re fiat, ut tot de nostris hominibus ad illos 
continenter transfugiant, Christianaque religione eiurata Mahumetanae 
sectag nomina dent." (De Causis Magnitudinis Turcarum Imperii, col. 1209.) 
(Thesaurus Antiquitatum et Historiarum Italiae, cura Joannis Georgii 
Graevii, torn. i. Lugduni Batavorum, 1725.) 

3 Turchicae Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xv.i. (a). 


occasion." ^ Writing about thirty years later (in 1663), 
the author ^ of a Tiircken-Schrifft says : " Meanwhile he 
(i.e. the Turk) wins (converts) by craft more than by force, 
and snatches away Christ by fraud out of the hearts of men. 
For the Turk, it is true, at the present time compels no 
country by violence to apostatise ; but he uses other means 
whereby imperceptibly he roots out Christianity. . . . What 
then has become of the Christians ? They are not expelled 
from the country, neither are they forced to embrace the 
Turkish faith : then they must of themselves have been 
converted into Turks." 

' The Turks considered that the greatest kindness they could 
show a man was to bring him into the salvation of the faith 
of Islam, ^ and to this end they left no method of persuasion 
untried ; a Dutch traveller of the sixteenth century, tells 
us that while he was admiring the great mosque of Santa 
Sophia, some Turks even tried to work upon his religious 
feelings through his aesthetic sense, saying to him, " If you 
become a Musalman, you will be able to come here every 
day of your life." About a century later, an English 
traveller ^ had a similar experience : " Sometimes, out of 
an excess of zeal, they will ask a Christian civilly enough, as 
I have been asked myself in the Portico of Sancta Sophia, 
why will you not turn Musalman, and be as one of us ? " 
The public rejoicings that hailed the accession of a new 
convert to the faith, testify to the ardent love for souls which 
made these men such zealous proselytisers. The new 
Muslim was set upon a horse and led in triumph through 
the streets of the city. If he was known to be genuinely 
honest in his change of faith and had voluntarily entered 
the pale of Islam, or if he was a person of good position, he 
was received with high honour and some provision made for 
his support.^ There was certainly abundant evidence for 
saying that " The Turks are preposterously zealous in pray- 
ing for the conversion, or perversion rather, of Christians 
to their irreligious religion : they pray heartily, and every 
day in their Temples, that Christians may imbrace the 

1 Blount, vol. i. p. 548. 2 Scheffler, §§ 51, 53. 

^ Dousa, p. 38. Busbecq, p. 190. * Thomas Smith, p. 32. 

' Thomas Smith, p. 42. Blount, vol. i. p. 548. Georgieviz, p. 20. 
Schiltberger, pp. 83-4. Baudier, pp. 149, 313. 


Alcoran, and become their Proselytes, in effecting of which 
they leave no means unassaied by fear and flattery, by 
punishments and rewards." ^ 

These zealous efforts for winning converts were rendered 
the more effective by certain conditions of Christian society 
itself. Foremost among these was the degraded condition 
of the Greek Church. Side by side with the civil despotism 
of the Byzantine empire, had arisen an ecclesiastical 
despotism which had crushed all energy of intellectual life 
under the weight of a dogmatism that interdicted all dis- 
cussion in matters of morals and religion. The only thing 
that disturbed this lethargy was the fierce controversial 
war waged against the Latin Church with all the bitterness 
of theological polemics and race hatred. The religion of the 
people had degenerated into a scrupulous observance of 
outward forms, and the intense fervour of their devotion 
found an outlet in the worship of the Virgin and the saints, 
of pictures and relics. There were many who turned from 
a Church whose spiritual life had sunk so low, and weary of 
interminable discussions on such subtle points of doctrine 
as the Double Procession of the Holy Spirit, and such 
trivialities as the use of leavened and unleavened bread in 
the Blessed Sacrament, gladly accepted the clear and 
intelligible theistic teaching of Islam. We are told ^ of large 
numbers of persons being converted, not only from among 
the simple folk, but also learned men of every class, rank and 
condition ; of how the Turks made a better provision for 
those monks and priests who embraced the Muslim creed, in 
order that their example might lead others to be converted. 
While Adrianople was still the Turkish capital (e. g. before 

^ Alexander Ross, p. ix. Baudier, p. 317. Cf. also Rycaut, vol. i. p. 276. 
" On croit meriter beaucoup que de faire un Proselyte, il n'y a personne 
assez riche pour avoir un esclave qui n'en veiiilleunjeune, quisoit capable de 
recevoir sans peine toutes sortes d'impressions, et qu'il puisse appeller son 
converti, afin de meriter I'honneur d'avoir augmente le nombre des fideles." 
Thomas Smith relates how the old man who showed him the tomb of 
Urkhan at Brusa " ingenti cum fervore, oculis ad Caelum elevatis, Deum 
precatus est ut nos ad fidem Musulmannicam suo tempore tandem con- 
vertere dignaretur : Hoc nimirum est summum erga nos aflectus testi- 
monium, qui ex isto falso et imperitissimo zelo solet profiuere." (Epistolae 
duae, quarum altera De Moribus ac Institutis Turcarum agit, p. 20.) 
(Oxonii, 1672.) 

^ By an anonymous writer who was a captive in Turkey from 1436 to 
1458. Turchicae Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xvii. (a). 


1453) the court was thronged with renegades, and they are 
said to have formed the majority of the magnates there. ^ 
Byzantine princes and others often passed over to the side 
of the Muhammadans, and received a ready welcome among 
them : one of the earhest of such cases dates from 1140 
when a nephew of the emperor John Comnenes embraced 
Islam and married a daughter of Mas'ud, the Sultan of 
Iconium,^ After the fall of Constantinople, the upper 
classes of Christian society showed much more readiness to 
embrace Islam than the mass of the Greeks ; among the 
converts we meet with several bearing the name of the late 
imperial family of the Palaeologi, and the learned George 
Amiroutzes of Trebizond abandoned Christianity in his 
declining years, and the names of many other such individuals 
have found a record.^ The new religion only demanded 
assent to its simple creed, " There is no god but God : 
Muhammad is the apostle of God " ; as the above-mentioned 
writer * says, " The whole difficulty lies in this profession of 
faith. For if only a man can persuade himself that he is a 
worshipper of the One God, the poison of his error easily 
infects him under the guise of rehgion. This is the rock of 
offence on which many have struck and fallen into the snare 
that has brought perdition on their souls. This is the 
mill-stone that hung about the necks of many has plunged 
them into the pit of despair. For when these fools hear the 
Turks execrate idolatry and express their horror of every 
image and picture as though it were the fire of hell, and so 
continually profess and preach the worship of One God, 
there no longer remains any room for suspicion in their 

The faith of Islam would now be the natural refuge for 

^ Turchicae Spuicitiae Suggillatio, fol. xi. (b). Lionardo of Scio, Arch- 
bishop of Mitylene, who was present at the taking of Constantinople, speaks 
of the large number of renegades in the besieging army : " Chi circondo 
la citt^, e chi insegno a' turchi I'ordine, se non i pessimi christiani ? lo 
son testimonio, che i Greci, ch' i Latini, che i Tedeschi, che gli Ungari, e die 
ogni altra generation di christiani, mescolati co' turchi impararono I'opere 
e la fede loro, i quali domenticatisi della fede Christiana, espugnavano la 
citt^. O empij che rinegasti Christo. O settatori di antichristo, dannati 
alle pene infernali, questo e hora il vostro tempo." (Sansovino, p. 258.) 

* J. H. Krause : Die Byzantiner des Mittelalters, pp. 385-6. (Halle, 1869.) 
^ Hertzberg, p. 616. Finlay, vol. v. p. 118. 

* Turchicce Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xix. (a). 


those members of the Eastern Church who felt such yearnings 
after a purer and simpler form of doctrine as had given rise 
to the Paulician heresy so fiercely suppressed a few centuries 
before. This movement had been very largely a protest 
against the superstitions of the Orthodox Church, against 
the worship of images, rehcs and saints, and an effort after 
simphcity of faith and the devout life. As some adherents 
of this heresy were to be found in Bulgaria even so late as the 
seventeenth century,^ the Muhammadan conquerors doubt- 
less found many who were dissatisfied with the doctrine and 
practice of the Greek Church ; and as all the conditions were 
unfavourable to the formation of any such Protestant 
Churches as arose in the West, such dissentient spirits would 
doubtless find a more congenial atmosphere in the rehgion 
of Islam. There is every reason to think that such was the 
result of the unsuccessful attempt to Protestantise the 
Greek Church in the beginning of the seventeenth century. 
The guiding spirit of this movement was Cyril Lucaris, five 
times Patriarch of Constantinople, from 1621 to 1638; as a 
young man he had visited the Universities of Wittenberg 
and Geneva, for the purpose of studying theology in the 
seats of Protestant learning, and on his return he kept up a 
correspondence with doctors of the reformed faith in Geneva, 
Holland and England. But neither the doctrines of the 
Church of England nor of the Lutherans attracted his 
sympathies so warmly as the teachings of John Calvin,^ 
which he strove to introduce into the Greek Church; his 
efforts in this direction were warmly supported by the 
Calvinists of Geneva, who sent a learned young theologian, 
named Leger, to assist the work by translating into Greek 
the writings of Calvinist theologians.^ Cyril also found 
warm friends in the Protestant embassies at Constantinople, 
the Dutch and English ambassadors especially assisting him 
liberally with funds; the Jesuits, on the other hand, sup- 
ported by the Catholic ambassadors, tried in every way to 
thwart this attempt to Calvinise the Greek Church, and 
actively seconded the intrigues of the party of opposition 
among the Greek clergy, who finally compassed the death 

1 Rycaut, vol. i. pp. 710-11. Bizzi, fol. 49 (b). 
* Pichler, pp. 164, 172. ^ Id. p. 143. 



of the Patriarch. In 1629 Cyril pubhshed a Confession of 
Faith, the main object of which seems to have been to present 
the doctrines of the Orthodox Church in their opposition to 
Roman Cathohcism in such a way as to imply a necessary 
accord with Protestant teaching. ^ From Calvin he borrows 
the doctrines of Predestination and salvation by faith alone, 
he denies the infalhbility of the Church, rejects the authority 
of the Church in the interpretation of Holy Scripture, and 
condemns the adoration of pictures : in his account of the 
will and in many other questions, he inclines rather to Cal- 
vinism than to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. ^ 
The promulgation of this Confession of Faith as representing 
the teaching of the whole Church of which he was the spiritual 
head, excited violent opposition among the mass of the 
Greek clergy, and a few weeks after Cyril's death a synod 
was held to condemn his opinions and pronounce him to be 
Anathema; in 1642 a second synod was held at Constanti- 
nople for the same purpose, which after refuting each article 
of Cyril's Confession in detail, as the first had done, thus 
fulminated its curse upon him and his followers : — " With 
one consent and in unqualified terms, we condemn this whole 
Confession as full of heresies and utterly opposed to our 
orthodoxy, and likewise declare that its compiler has nothing 
in common with our faith, but in calumnious fashion has 
falsely charged his own Calvinism on us. All those who read 
and keep it as true and blameless, and defend it by written 
word or speech, we thrust out of the community of the faith- 
ful as followers and partakers of his heresy and corrupters 
of the Christian Church, and command that whatever be 
their rank and station, they be treated as heathen and 
publicans. Let them be laid under an anathema for ever 
and cut off from the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost 
in this life and in the life to come, accursed, excommunicated, 
be lost after death, and be partakers of everlasting punish- 
ment." 2 In 1672 a third synod met at Jerusalem to re- 
pudiate the heretical articles of this Confession of Faith and 
vindicate the orthodoxy of the Greek Church against those 

1 Pichler, p. 148. It is doubtful, however, whether Cyril was really the 
author of tliis document bearing his name. (Kyriakos, p. 100.) 
* Id. pp. 183-9. 3 Id. p. 226. 


who represented her as infected with Calvinism. The 
attempt to Protestantise the Greek Church thus completely 
failed to achieve success : the doctrines of Calvin were 
diametrically opposed to her teachings, and indeed incul- 
cated many articles of faith that were more in harmony with 
the tenets of Muslim theologians than with those of the 
Orthodox Church, and which moreover she had often at- 
tacked in her controversies with her Muhammadan adver- 
saries. It is this approximation to Islamic thought which 
gives this movement towards Calvinism a place in a history 
of the spread of Islam : a man who inveighed against the 
adoration of pictures, decried the authority and the very 
institution of the priesthood, maintained the doctrines of 
absolute Predestination, denied freedom to the human will 
and was in sympathy with the stern spirit of Calvinism that 
had more in common with the Old than the New Testament 
— would certainly find a more congenial atmosphere in 
Islam than in the Greek Church of the seventeenth century, 
and there can be little doubt that among the numerous 
converts of Islam during that century were to be found men 
who had been alienated from the Church of their fathers 
through their leanings towards Calvinism. ^ We have no 
definite information as to the number of the followers of 
Cyril Lucaris and the extent of Calvinistic influences in the 
Greek Church ; the clergy, jealous of the reputation of their 
Church, whose orthodoxy and immunity from heresy were 
so boastfully vindicated by her children, and had thus been 
impugned through the suspicion of Calvinism, wished to 
represent the heretical patriarch as standing alone in his 
opinions. 2 But a following he undoubtedly had : his 
Confession of Faith had received the sanction of a synod 
composed of his followers ; ^ those who sympathised with 
his heresies were anathematised both by the second synod 
of Constantinople (1642) and by the synod of Jerusalem 
(1672) * — surely a meaningless repetition, had no such 
persons existed ; moreover the names of some few of these 

^ As regards the Christian captives the Protestants certainly had the 
reputation among the Turks of showing a greater incUnation towards 
conversion than the Catholics. (Gmelin, p. 21.) 

- Pichler, pp. 211, 227. ^ jj. pp. 181^ 228. 

* Id. pp. 222, 226. 


have come down to us : Sophronius, Metropolitan of Athens, 
was a warm supporter of the Reformation ; ^ a monk named 
Nicodemus Metaras, who had brought a printing-press from 
London and issued heretical treatises therefrom, was re- 
warded with a metropolitan see by Cyril in return for his 
services ; ^ the philosopher Corydaleus, a friend of Cyril, 
opened a Calvinistic school in Constantinople, and another 
Greek, Gerganos, published a Catechism so as to introduce 
the teachings of Calvin among his fellow-countrymen ; ^ 
and Neophytus II, who was made Patriarch in 1636, while 
Cyril was in exile in the island of Rhodes, was his disciple 
and adopted son ; he recalled his master from banishment 
and resigned the patriarchal chair in his favour.* In a 
letter to the University of Geneva (dated July, 1636), Cyril 
writes that Leger had gained a large number of converts to 
Calvinism by his writings and preaching ; ^ in another letter 
addressed to Leger, he describes how he had made his in- 
fluence felt in Candia.^ His successor ' in the patriarchal 
chair was banished to Carthage and there strangled by the 
adherents of Lucaris in 1639.^ The Calvinists are said 
to have entertained hopes of Parthenius I (the successor 
of Cyril II), but his untimely end (whether by poison 
or banishment is uncertain) disappointed their expecta- 
tions.^ Parthenius II, who was Patriarch of Constan- 
tinople from 1644 to 1646, was at heart a thorough 
Calvinist, and though he did not venture openly to teach 
the doctrines of Calvin, still his known sympathy with 
them caused him to be deposed, sent into exile and 
strangled. 10 Thus the influence of Calvinism was un- 
doubtedly more widespread than the enemies of Cyril 
Lucaris were willing to admit, and as stated above, those 
who refused to bow to the anathemas of the synods that 
condemned their leader, had certainly more in common with 
their Muhammadan neighbours than with the Orthodox 
clergy who cast them out of their midst. There is no actual 
evidence, it is true, of Calvinistic influences in Turkey 

1 Pichler, p. 173. " Id. pp. 128, 132, 143. 

' Id. p. 143. * Le Quien, torn. i. col. 334. 

^ Pichler, p. 172. ® Hefele, vol. i. p. 473. 

^ Cyril II of Berrhcea. * Le Quien, torn. i. col. 335. 

• Id. torn. i. col. 336. ^^ Id. torn. i. col. 337. 


facilitating conversion to Islam/ but in the absence of any 
other explanation it certainly seems a very plausible con- 
jecture that such were among the factors that so enormously 
increased the number of the Greek renegades towards the 
middle of the seventeenth century — a period during which 
the number of renegades from among the middle and lower 
orders of society is said to have been more considerable than 
at any other time.^ Frequent mention is made of cases of 
apostasy from among the clergy, and even among the 
highest dignitaries of the Church, such as a former Metro- 
politan of Rhodes. 3 In 1676 it is said that in Corinth some 
Christian people went over every day to " the Turkish 
abomination," and that three priests had become Musal- 
mans the year before ; * in 1679 is recorded the death of a 
renegade monk.^ On the occasion of the circumcision of 
Mustafa, son of Muhammad IV, in 1675, there were at 
least two hundred proselytes made during the thirteen days 
of public rejoicing,^ and numerous other instances may be 
found in writings of this period. A contemporary writer 
(1663) has well described the mental attitude of such con- 
verts. " When you mix with the Turks in the ordinary 
intercourse of life and see that they pray and sing even the 
Psalms of David; that they give alms and do other good 
works ; that they think highly of Christ, hold the Bible in 
great honour, and the like ; that, besides, any ass may become 
parish priest who plies the Bassa with presents, and he will 

^ However, in an earlier attempt made by the Protestant theologians of 
Tubingen (1573-77) to introduce the doctrines of the Reformed Church into 
the Eastern Church, the Vaivode Quarquar of Samtskheth in Georgia 
embraced the Confession of Augsburg, but in 1580 became a MusHm. 
(Joselian, p. 140.) 

^ Scheffler, §§ 53-6. Finlay, vol. v. pp. 11 8-1 9. 

^ Hammer (i), vol. vi. p. 94. * Spon, vol. ii. p. 57. 

^ Hammer (i), vol. vi. p. 364. 

* Early Voyages and Travels in the Levant, edited by J. Theodore Bent, 
p. 210. (London, 1893.) Similarly, Michel Baudier concludes his descrip- 
tion of the festivities in Constantinople on the occasion of the circumcision 
of Muhammad III in the latter part of the sixteenth century, with an 
account of the conversion of a large number of Christians. " During the 
spectacles of this solemnity, the wretched Grecians ran by troupes in this 
place to make themselves Mahometans ; Some abandoned Christianitie 
to avoid the oppression of the Turkes, others for the hope of private 
profit. . . . The number of these cast-awayes was found to be above foure 
thousand soules." (The History of the Serrail, and of the Court of the 
Grand Seigneur Emperour of the Turkes, pp. 93-4. (London, 1635.) 
Histoire generale du Serrail, et de la Cour du Grand Seigneur, Empereur 
des Turcs, pp. 89-90. (Paris, 1631.)) 


not urge Christianity on you very much ; so you will come 
to think that they are good people and will very probably 
be saved ; and so you will come to believe that you too may 
be saved, if you likewise become Turks. Herewith will the 
Holy Trinity and the crucified Son of God, with many other 
mysteries of the faith, which seem quite absurd to the un- 
enlightened reason, easily pass out of your thoughts, and 
imperceptibly Christianity will quite die out in you, and you 
will think that it is all the same whether you be Christians 
or Turks," ^ 

Thomas Smith, who was in Constantinople in 1669, 
speaks of the number of Christian converts about this 
period, but assigns baser motives. " 'Tis sad to consider 
the great number of wretched people, who turn Turks ; some 
out of meer desperation ; being not able to support the 
burthen of slavery, and to avoid the revilings and insultings 
of the Infidels ; some out of a wanton light humour, to put 
themselves into a condition of domineering and insulting 
over others . . . some to avoid the penalties and inflictions 
due to their heinous crimes, and to enjoy the brutish liberties, 
that Mahomet consecrated by his own example, and recom- 
mended to his followers. These are the great and tempting 
arguments and motives of their apostasy, meer considera- 
tions of ease, pleasure and prosperity, or else of vanity and 
guilt ; for it cannot be presumed, that any through conviction 
of mind should be wrought upon to embrace the dotages and 
impostures of Turcisme." ^ Records of conversions after 
this period are rare, but Motraye gives an account of several 
renegades, who became Muhammadans in Constantinople 
in 1703 ; among them was a French priest and some other 
French Catholics, and some priests from SmjTua.^ 

Another feature in the condition of the Greek Church that 
contributed to the decay of its numbers, was the corruption 
and degradation of its pastors, particularly the higher clergy. 
The sees of bishops and archbishops were put up to auction 
to the highest bidders, and the purchasers sought to recoup 

1 Scheffler, § 55. 

'^ Thomas Smith: An Account of the Greek Church, pp. 15-16. 
(London, 1680.) 

* A. de la Motraye : Voyages en Europe, Asie et Afrique, vol. i. pp. 306, 
308. (La Haye, 1727.) 


themselves by exacting levies of all kinds from their flocks ; 
they burdened the unfortunate Christians with taxes 
ordinary and extraordinary, made them purchase all the 
sacraments at exorbitant rates, baptism, confession, holy 
communion, indulgences, and the right of Christian burial. 
Some of the clergy even formed an unholy alhance with the 
Janissaries, and several bishops had their names and those 
of their households inscribed on the list of one of their Ortas 
or regiments, the better to secure an immunity for their 
excesses and escape the punishment of their crimes under 
the protection of this corporation which the weakness of the 
Ottoman rulers had allowed to assume such a powerful 
position in the state. ^ The evidence of contemporary eye- 
witnesses to the oppressive behaviour of the Greek clergy 
presents a terrible picture of the sufferings of the Christians. 
Tournefort in 1700, after describing the election of a new 
Patriarch, says : " We need not at all doubt but the new 
Patriarch makes the best of his time. Tyranny succeeds 
to Simony : the first thing he does is to signify the Sultan's 
order to all the Archbishops and Bishops of his clergy : his 
greatest study is to know exactly the revenues of each 
Prelate; he imposes a tax upon them, and enjoins them 
very strictly by a second letter to send the sum demanded, 
otherwise their dioceses are adjudg'd to the highest bidder. 
The Prelates being used to this trade, never spare their 
Suffragans ; these latter torment the Papas : the Papas 
flea the Parishioners and hardly sprinkle the least drop of 
Holy Water, but what they are paid for beforehand. 
If afterwards the Patriarch has occasion for money, he 
farms out the gathering of it to the highest bidder among 
the Turks : he that gives most for it, goes into Greece to 
cite the Prelates. Usually for twenty thousand crowns 
that the clergy is tax'd at, the Turk extorts two and twenty ; 
so that he has the two thousand crowns for his pains, 
besides having his charges borne in every diocese. In 
virtue of the agreement he has made with the Patriarch, he 
deprives and interdicts from all ecclesiastical functions, 
those prelates who refuse to pay their tax." ^ The Christian 

^ Pitzipios, Seconde Partie, pp. 83-7. Pichler, p. 29. 

* Tournefort, vol. i. p. 107. Spon uses much the same language, vol. i. p. 56. 


clergy are even said to have carried off the children of the 
parishioners and sold them as slaves, to get money for their 
simoniacal designs. ^ 

The extortions practised in the seventeenth have found 
their counterpart in the nineteenth century, and the suffer- 
ings of the Christians of the Greek Church in Bosnia, before 
the Austrian occupation, exactly illustrate the words of 
Tournefort. The Metropolitan of Serajevo used to wring as 
much as £10,000 a year from his miserable flock — a sum 
exactly double the salary of the Turkish Governor himself — 
and to raise this enormous sum the unfortunate parishioners 
were squeezed in every possible way, and the Turkish 
authorities had orders to assist the clergy in levying their 
exactions ; and whole Christian villages suffered the fate 
of sacked cities, for refusing, or often being unable, to 
comply with the exorbitant demands of Christian Prelates. ^ 
Such unbearable oppression on the part of the spiritual 
leaders who should protect the Christian population, has 
often stirred it up to open revolt, whenever a favourable 
opportunity has offered itself.^ It is not surprising then to 
learn that many of the Christians went over to Islam, to 
deliver themselves from such tyranny.* 

Ecclesiastical oppression of a rather different character 
is said to have been responsible for the conversion of the 
ancestors of a small community of about 4000 Southern 
Rumanians, at Noanta in the Meglen district of the vilayet 
of Salonika; they have a tradition that in the eighteenth 
century the Patriarch of Constantinople persuaded the 
reigning Sultan that only the Christians who spoke Greek 
could be loyal subjects of the Turkish empire ; the Sultan 

^ Gaultier de LesKe, p. 137. 

' A. J. Evans, p. 267. Similarly Mackenzie and Irby say : "In most 
parts of Old Serbia the idea we found associated with a bishop, was that of 
a person who carried off what few paras the Turks had left " (p. 258). A 
similar account of the clergy of the Greek Church is given by a writer in the 
Revue des Deux Mondes (tome 97, p. 336), who narrates the following story : 
" Au d^but de ce siecle, a Tirnova, un certain pope du nom de Joachim, 
adore de ses ouailles, deteste de son eveque, re9ut I'ordre, un jour, de faire 
la corvee du fumier dans I'ecurie episcopale. II se rebiffa : aussitot la 
valetaille I'assaillit a coups de fourche. Mais notre homme etait vigoureux : 
il se debattit, et, laissant sa tunique en gage, s'en fut tout chaud chez le 
cadi. Le soleil n'etait pas couche qu'il devenait bon Musulman." 

' Pitzipios, Seconde Partie, p. 87. 

* Id. Seconde Partie, p. 87. Pichler, p. 29. 


thereupon forbade the Christians to speak anything but 
Greek, on pain of having their tongues cut out ; when the 
news of this reached Noanta, a part of the population fled 
into the woods and founded fresh villages, but those who 
were left behind went over to Islam, with their bishop 
at their head, in order thereby to retain their mother- 

Though the mass of the parish clergy were innocent of the 
charges brought against their superiors, ^ still they were very 
ignorant and illiterate. At the end of the seventeenth 
century, there were said to be hardly twelve persons in the 
whole Turkish dominions thoroughly skilled in the knowledge 
of the ancient Greek language ; it was considered a great 
merit in the clergy to be able to read, while they were quite 
ignorant of the meaning of the words of their service-books.' 

While there was so much in the Christian society of the 
time to repel, there was much in the character and life of 
the Turks to attract, and the superiority of the early Otto- 
mans as compared with the degradation of the guides and 
teachers of the Christian Church would naturally impress 
devout minds that revolted from the selfish ambition, 
simony and corruption of the Greek ecclesiastics. Christian 
writers constantly praise these Turks for the earnestness and 
intensity of their religious life ; their zeal in the performance 
of the observances prescribed by their faith ; the outward 
decency and modesty displayed in their apparel and mode 
of living ; the absence of ostentatious display and the sim- 
plicity of life observable even in the great and powerful.* 
The annalist of the embassy from the Emperor Leopold I 
to the Ottoman Porte in 1665-1666, especially eulogises the 
devoutness and regularity of the Turks in prayer, and he 
even goes so far as to say, " Nous devons dire a la confusion 
des Chretiens, que les Turcs temoignent beaucoup plus de 
soin et de zele a I'exercice de leur Religion : que les Cretiens 
n'en font paroitre a la pratique de la leur. . . . Mais ce qui 
passe tout ce que nous experimentons de devot entre les 
Chretiens : c'est que pendant le tems de la priere, vous ne 

^ Lazar, p. 223. - Finlay, vol. iv. pp. 153-4. 

' Tournefort, vol. i. p. 104. Cf. Pichler, pp. 29, 31. Spon, vol. i. p. 44. 
* Turchicae Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xiii. (b) ; fol. xv. (b) ; fol. xvii. (b) ; 
fol. XX. (a). Veniero, pp. 32, 36. Busbecq, p. 174. 


voyez pas une personne distraite de ses yeux : vous n'en 
voyez pas une qui ne soit attachee a I'objet de sa priere : 
et pas une qui n'ait toute la reverence exterieure pour son 
Createur, qu'on pent exiger de la Creature." ^ 

Even the behaviour of the soldiery receives its meed of 
praise. During the march of an army the inhabitants of 
the country, we are told by the secretary to the Embass}/ 
sent by Charles II to the Sultan, had no complaints to make 
of being plundered or of their women being maltreated. 
All the taverns along the line of march were shut up and 
sealed two or three days before the arrival of the army, and 
no wine was allowed to be sold to the soldiers under pain of 
death. 2 

Many a tribute of praise is given to the virtues of the 
Turks even by Christian writers who bore them no love ; 
one such who had a very poor opinion of their religion,^ 
speaks of them as follows : — " Even in the dirt of the Alcoran 
you shall find some jewels of Christian Virtues ; and indeed 
if Christians will but dihgently read and observe the Laws 
and Histories of the Mahometans, they may blush to see 
how zealous they are in the works of devotion, piety, and 
charity, how devout, cleanly, and reverend in their Mosques, 
how obedient to their Priest, that even the great Turk 
himself will attempt nothing without consulting his Mufti ; 
how careful are they to observe their hours of prayer five 
times a day wherever they are, or however employed ? how 
constantly do they observe their Fasts from morning till 
night a whole month together; how loving and charitable 
the Muslemans are to each other, and how careful of strangers 
may be seen by their Hospitals, both for the Poor and for 
Travellers; if we observe their Justice, Temperance, and 
other moral Vertues, we may truly blush at our own cold- 
ness, both in devotion and charity, at our injustice, intem- 
perance, and oppression ; doubtless these Men will rise up 
in judgment against us; and surely their devotion, piety, 

^ Gaultier de Leslie, pp. i8o, 182. 

^ Rycaut, vol. i. p. 689. See also Georgieviz, pp. 53-4, and Menavino, 

P- 73- 

^ Alexander Ross, p. ix. ; he calls the Qur'an a " gallimaufry of Errors 
(a Brat as deformed as the Parent, and as full of Heresies, as his scald head 
was of scurf)," — " a hodg podge made up of these four Ingredients. i. Of 
Contradictions. 2. Of Blasphemy. 3. Of ridiculous Fables. 4. Of Lyes." 


and works of mercy are main causes of the growth of 

The same conclusion is drawn by a modern historian, ^ 
who writes : — " We find that many Greeks of high talent 
and moral character were so sensible of the superiority of 
the Mohammedans, that even when they escaped being 
drafted into the Sultan's household as tribute-children, they 
voluntarily embraced the faith of Mahomet. The moral 
superiority of Othoman society must be allowed to have had 
as much weight in causing these conversions, which were 
numerous in the fifteenth century, as the personal ambition 
of individuals." 

A generation that has watched the decay of the Turkish 
power in Europe and the successive curtailment of its 
territorial possessions, and is accustomed to hearing it 
spoken of as the " sick man," destined to a speedy dissolu- 
tion, must find it difficult to realise the feelings which the 
Ottoman empire inspired in the early days of its rise in 
Europe. The rapid and widespread success of the Turkish 
arms filled men's minds with terror and amazement. One 
Christian kingdom after another fell into their hands : 
Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia, and Hungary 3delded up their 
independence as Christian states. The proud Republic of 
Venice saw one possession after another wrested from it, 
until the Lion of St. Mark held sway on the shores of the 
Adriatic alone. Even the safety of the Eternal City itself 
was menaced by the capture of Otranto. Christian hterature 
of the latter half of the fifteenth and of the sixteenth 
centuries is full of direful forebodings of the fate that 
threatened Christian Europe unless the victorious progress 
of the Turk was arrested ; he is represented as a scourge in 
the hand of God for the punishment of the sins and back- 
sHdings of His people, ^ or on the other hand as the unloosed 
power of the Devil working for the destruction of Christianity 
under the hj^pocritical guise of religion. But — what is 
most important to notice here — some men began to ask 
themselves, "Is it possible that God would allow the 
Muhammadans to increase in such countless numbers with- 
out good reason ? Is it conceivable that so many thousands 

1 Finlay, vol. v. p. 29. * Schiltberger, p. 96. 


are to be damned like one man ? How can such multitudes 
be opposed to the true faith ? since truth is stronger than 
error and is more loved and desired by all men, it is not 
possible for so many men to be fighting against it. How 
could they prevail against truth, since God always helps and 
upholds the truth ? How could their rehgion so marvel- 
lously increase, if built upon the rotten foundation of error? "^ 
Such thoughts, we are told, appealed strongly to the Christian 
peoples that lived under the Turkish rule, and with especial 
force to the unhappy Christian captives who watched the 
years drag wearily on without hope of release or respite from 
their misery. Can we be surprised when we find such a 
one asking himself ? " Surely if God were pleased with the 
faith to which you have clung, He would not have thus 
abandoned you, but would have helped you to gain your 
freedom and return to it again. But as He has closed every 
avenue of freedom to you, perchance it is His pleasure that 
you should leave it and join this sect and be saved therein." ^ 
The Christian slave who thus describes the doubts that 
arose in his mind as the slow-passing years brought no relief, 
doubtless gives expression here to thoughts that suggested 
themselves to many a hapless Christian captive with over- 
whelming persistency, until at last he broke away from the 
ties of his old faith and embraced Islam. Many who would 
have been ready to die as martyrs for the Christian religion 
if the mythical choice between the Qur'an and the sword had 
been offered them, felt more and more strongly, after long 
years of captivity, the influence of Muhammadan thought 
and practice, and humanity won converts where violence 
would have failed.^ For though the lot of many of the 
Christian captives was a very pitiable one, others who held 
positions in the households of private individuals, were often 
no worse off than domestic servants in the rest of Europe. 

1 Turchicae Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xii. (b), xiii. (a). 

^ Id. fol. xxvii. (a). 

' " Dum corpora exterius fovendo sub pietatis specie non occidit : 
interius fidem auferendo animas sua diabolica astutia occidere intendit. 
Huius rei testimonium innumerabilis multitude fidelium esse potest. 
Quorum multi promptissimi essent pro fide Christi et suarum animarum 
salute in fide Christi mori : quos tamen conservando a morte corporali : et 
ductos in captivitatem per successum temporis suo infectos veneno fidem 
Christi turpiter negare facit." Turchicae Spurctiae Suggillatio, fol. i. ; cf. 
fol. vi. (a). 


As organised by the Muhammadan Law, slavery was robbed 
of many of its harshest features, nor in Turkey at least does 
it seem to have been accompanied by such barbarities and 
atrocities as in the pirate states of Northern Africa. The 
slaves, like other citizens, had their rights, and it is even said 
that a slave might summon his master before the Qadi for 
ill usage, and that if he alleged that their tempers were so 
opposite, that it was impossible for them to agree, the 
Qadi could oblige his master to sell him.^ The condition 
of the Christian captives naturally varied with circum- 
stances and their own capabilities of adapting themselves 
to a life of hardship ; the aged, the priests and monks, and 
those of noble birth suffered most, while the physician and 
the handicraftsman received more considerate treatment 
from their masters, as being servants that best repaid the 
money spent upon them.^ The galley-slaves naturally 
suffered most of all, indeed the kindest treatment could 
have but little relieved the hardships incident to such an 
occupation. 2 Further, the lot of the slaves who were state 
property was more pitiable than that of those who had been 
purchased by private individuals.* As a rule they were 
allowed the free exercise of their religion; in the state- 
prisons at Constantinople, they had their own priests and 
chapels, and the clergy were allowed to administer the con- 
solations of religion to the galley-slaves,^ The number of 
the Christian slaves who embraced Islam was enormous; 
some few cases have been recorded of their being threatened 

^ Menavino, p. 96. John Harris : Navigantium atque Itinerantium 
Bibliotheca, vol. ii. p. 819. (London, 1764.) 

^ " Dieses muss man den Tiirken nachsagen, dass sic die Diener und 
Sclaven, durch deren Fleiss und Bemiihung sie sich einen Nutzen schaffen 
konnen, sehr wol und oft besser, als die Christian die ihrige, halten . . . und 
wann ein Knecht in einer Kunst erfahren ist, gehet ihm nichts anders als 
die Freyheit ab, ausser welche er alles andere hat, was ein freyer Mensch 
sich nur wiinschen kan." (G. C. von den Driesch, p. 132.) 

^ Sir Wilham Stirling-Maxwell says of these : " The poor wretches who 
tugged at the oar on board a Turkish ship of war lived a Ufe neither more 
nor less miserable than the galley-slaves under the sign of the Cross. Hard 
work, hard fare, and hard knocks were the lot of both. Ashore, a Turkish 
or Algerine prison was, perhaps, more noisome in its filth and darkness than 
a prison at Naples or Barcelona ; but at sea, if there were degrees of misery, 
the Christian in Turkish chains probably had the advantage; for in the 
Sultan's vessels the oar-gang was often the property of the captain, and 
the owner's natural tenderness for his own was sometimes supposed to 
interfere with the discharge of his duty." (Vol. i. pp. 102-3.) 

* GmeUn, p. 16. s Id, p, 23. 


and ill-treated for the very purpose of inducing them to 
recant, but as a rule the masters seldom forced them to 
renounce their faith, ^ and put the greatest pressure upon 
them during the first years of their captivity, after which 
they let them alone to follow their own faith. ^ The majority 
of the converted slaves therefore changed their religion of 
their own free choice; and when the Christian embassies 
were never sure from day to day that some of their fellow- 
countrymen that had accompanied them to Constantinople 
as domestic servants, might not turn Turk,^ it can easily 
be understood that slaves who had lost all hope of return 
to their native country, and found little in their surroundings 
to strengthen and continue the teachings of their earlier 
years, would yield to the influences that beset them and 
would feel few restraints to hinder them from entering a new 
society and a new religion. An English traveller * of the 
seventeenth century has said of them : " Few ever return 
to their native country; and fewer have the courage and 
constancy of retaining the Christian Faith, in which they 
were educated; their education being but mean, and their 
knowledge but slight in the principles and grounds of it ; 
whereof some are frightened into Turcism by their impatience 

^ John Harris ; Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca, vol. ii. p. 8io, 
2 " Die ersten Jahre sind fiir solche ungliickliche Leute am besch- 
wehrlichsten, absonderlich wenn sic noch jung, weil die Tiirken selbige 
entweder mit Schmeicheln, oder, wann dieses nichts verfangen will, mit 
der Scharfe zu ihren Giauben zu bringen suchen ; wann aber dieser Sturm 
iiberwunden, wird man finden, dass die Gefangenschaft nirgend ertraglicher 
als bey den Tiirken seye." (G. C. von den Driesch, p. 132.) Moreover 
Georgieviz says that those who persevered in the Christian faith were set 
free after a certain fixed period. " Si in Christiana fide perseveraverint, 
statuitur certum tempus serviendi, quo elapso liberi fiunt . . . Verum 
illis qui nostram religionem abiurarunt, nee certum tempus est serviendi, 
ned ullum ius in patriam redeundi, spes libertatis solummodo pendet a 
domini arbitrio " (p. 87). Similarly Menavino, p. 65. Cantacuzenos gives 
this period as seven years : — " Grata e la compagnia che essi fanno a gli 
schiavi loro, percioche Maumetto gli ha fra I'altre cose comandato che egli 
non si possa tener in servitii uno schiavo piu che sette anni, et percio nessuno 
o raro e colui che a tal comandamento voglia contrafare " (p. 128). 

' " Fromme Christen, die nach der Tiirkei oder in andere muhame- 
danische Lander kamen, hatten Anlass genug zur Trauer iiber die Hiiufigkeit 
des Abfalls ihrer Glaubensgenossen, und besonders die Schriften der Ordens- 
geistlichen sind voU von solchen Klagen. Bei den Sclaven konnte sich 
immer noch ein Gefiihl des Mitleids dem der Missbilligung beimischen, aber 
oft genug musste man die bittersten Erfahrungen auch an freien Landsleuten 
machen. Die christhchen Gesandten waren keinen Tag sicher, ob ihnen 
nicht Leute von ihrem Gefolge davon liefen, und man that gut daran, den 
Tag nicht vor dem Abend zu loben." (Gmelin, p. 22.) Cf. Von den 
Driesch, p. 161. * Thomas Smith, pp. 144-5. 


and too deep resentments of the hardships of the servitude ; 
others are enticed by the blandishments and flatteries of 
pleasure the Mahometan Law allows, and the allurements 
they have of making their condition better and more easy 
by a change of their Religion ; having no hope left of being 
redeemed, they renounce their Saviour and their Christianity, 
and soon forget their original country, and are no longer 
looked upon as strangers, but pass for natives." 

Much of course depended upon the individual character 
of the different Christian slaves themselves. The anony- 
mous writer, so often quoted above, whose long captivity 
made him so competent to speak on their condition, divides 
them into three classes : — first, those who passed their days 
in all simplicity, not caring to trouble themselves to learn 
anything about the rehgion of their masters; for them it 
was enough to know that the Turks were infidels, and so, 
as far as their captive condition and their yoke of slavery 
allowed, they avoided having anything to do with them 
and their religious worship, fearing lest they should be led 
astray by their errors, and striving to observe the Christian 
faith as far as their knowledge and power went. The second 
class consisted of those whose curiosity led them to study 
and investigate the doings of the Turks : if, by the help of 
God, they had time enough to dive into their secrets, and 
understanding enough for the investigation of them and 
light of reason to find the interpretation thereof, they not 
only came out of the trial unscathed, but had their own 
faith strengthened. The third class includes those who, 
examining the Muslim religion without due caution, fail to 
dive into its depths and find the interpretation of it and so 
are deceived; believing the errors of the Turks to be the 
truth, they lose their own faith and embrace the false 
religion of the Muslims, hereby not only compassing their 
own destruction, but setting a bad example to others : of 
such men the number is infinite. ^ 

Conversion to Islam did not, as some writers have affirmed, 
release the slave from his captivity and make him a free man, 2 

^ Turchicae Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xxxv. (a). 

* M. d'Ohsson, vol. iii. p. 133. Georgieviz, p. 87 (quoted above). 
Menavino, p. 95. 


for emancipation was solely at the discretion of the 
master; who indeed often promised to set any slave free, 
without the payment of ransom, if only he would embrace 
Islam ; ^ but, on the other hand, would also freely emancipate 
the Christian slave, even though he had persevered in his 
religion, provided he had proved himself a faithful servant, 
and would make provision for his old age.^ 

There were many others who, like the Christian slaves, 
separated from early surroundings and associations, found 
themselves cut loose from old ties and thrown into the midst 
of a society animated by social and religious ideals of an 
entirely novel character. The crowds of Christian work- 
men that came wandering from the conquered countries 
in the iifteenth century to Adrianople and other Turkish 
cities in search of employment, were easily persuaded to 
settle there and adopt the faith of Islam. ^ Similarly the 
Christian families that Muhammad II transported from 
conquered provinces in Europe into Asia Minor,* may well 
have become merged into the mass of the Muslim population 
by almost imperceptible degrees, as was the case with the 
Armenians carried away into Persia by Shah 'Abbas I 
(1587-1629), most of whom appear to have passed over to 
Islam in the second generation.^ 

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there 
would seem to have been a decay of the missionary spirit 
among the Turks, but the latter years of the reign of Sultan 
*Abd al-Hamid witnessed a renewed interest in Muslim 
propaganda, and Turkish newspapers began to record 
instances of conversion. Among the most noteworthy of 
such converts were some eighteen amirs of the princely 
family of Shihab in Mount Lebanon, which had been 
Christian for about a century; they are said to claim 
descent from the Quraysh, and the Turks made every effort 
to bring them back to the fold of Islam ; those who became 

^ Von den Driesch, p. 250. 

* Id. p. 131-2. 

^ Turchicae Spurcitiae Suggillatio, fol. xi. 

* Hertzberg, p. 621. 

^ " The old People dying, the young ones generally turn Mahumetans : 
so that now (1655) you can hardly meet with two Christian Armenians in all 
those fair Plains, which their fathers were sent to manure." Tavernier 
(i), p. 16. 


Muslims were appointed to lucrative posts in the Turkish 
civil service.^ 

In the following pages it is proposed to give a more 
detailed and particular account of the spread of Islam among 
the Christian populations of Albania, Servia, Bosnia and 
Crete, as the history of each of these countries after its con- 
quest by the Ottomans presents some special features of 
interest in the history of the propagation of Islam. 

The Albanians, with the exception of some settlements in 
Greece, 2 inhabit the mountainous country that stretches 
along the east shore of the Adriatic from Montenegro to the 
Gulf of Arta. They form one of the oldest and purest- 
blooded races in Europe and are said to belong to the 
Pelasgic branch of the Aryan stock. 

Their country was first invaded by the Turks in 1387, but 
the Turkish forces soon had to withdraw, and the authority 
of the Sultan was recognised for the first time in 1423, 
For a short period Albania regained its independence under 
George Kastriota, who is better known under his Muhamma- 
dan name of Scanderbeg or Sikandarbeg. Recent investi- 
gations have estabhshed the falsity of the romantic 
fictions that had gathered round the story of his early 
days — how that as a boy he had been surrendered as a 
hostage to the Turks, had been brought up among them as a 
Muslim and had won the special favour of the Sultan. The 
truth is, that the days of his youth were passed in his native 
mountains and his warfare with the Turks began with the 
victory gained over them in 1444; for more than twenty 
years he maintained a vigorous and successful resistance to 
their invading forces, but after his death in 1467, the Turks 
began again to take possession of Albania. Kriiya, the 
capital of the Kastriot dynasty, fell into their hands eleven 
years later, and from this date there appears to have been 
no organised resistance of the whole country, though revolts 
were frequent and the subjection of the country was never 
complete. Some of the sea-port towns held out much 
longer; Durazzo was captured in 1501, while Antivari, the 
northernmost point of the sea-coast of Albania, did not 

1 H. H. Jessup : Fifty-three Years in Syria, vol. ii. p. 658. (New York, 1910.) 
^ For a list of these, see Finlay, vol. vi. pp. 28-g. 


surrender until 1571. The terms of capitulation were that 
the city should retain its old laws and magistrature, that 
there should be free and public exercise of the Christian 
religion, that the churches and chapels should remain 
uninjured and might be rebuilt if they fell into decay; that 
the citizens should retain all their movable and immovable 
property and should not be burdened by any additional 

The Albanians under Turkish rule appear always to have 
maintained a kind of semi-autonomy, and the several tribes 
and clans remained as essentially independent as they were 
before the conquest. Though vassals of the Sultans, they 
would not brook the interference of Turkish officials in their 
internal administration, and there is reason to beheve that 
the Turkish Government has never been able to appoint or 
confirm any provincial governor who was not a native of 
Albania, and had not already established his influence by 
his arms, policy or connections. ^ Their racial pride is 
intense, and to the present day, the Albanian, if asked what 
he is, will call himself a Skipetar,- before saying whether 
he is a Christian or a Muhammadan — a very remarkable 
instance of national feeling obliterating the fierce distinction 
between these two religions that so forcibly obtrudes itself 
in the rest of the Ottoman empire. The Christian and 
Muhammadan Albanians alike, just as they speak the same 
language, so do they cherish the same traditions, and 
observe the same manners and customs ; and pride in their 
common nationality has been too strong a bond to allow 
differences of religious belief to split the nation into separate 
communities on this basis. ^ Side by side they served in the 

^ Leake, p. 250. 

* The name by which the Albanians always call themselves, lit. rock- 

' One of themselves, an Albanian Christian, speaking of the enmity 
existing between the Christians and Muhammadans of Bulgaria, says : 
" Aber fiir Albanien liegen die Dachen ganz anders. Die Muselmanner 
sind Albanesen, wie die Christen ; sie sprechen dieselbe Sprache, sie haben 
dieselben Sitten. sie folgen denselben Gebrauchen, sie haben dieselben 
Traditionen ; sie und die Christen haben sich niemals gehasst, zwischen 
ihnen herrscht keine Jahrhunderte alte Feindschaft. Der Unterschied der 
Religion war niemals ein zu einer systematischen Trennung treibendes 
Motiv ; Muselmanner und Christen haben stets, mit wenigen Ausnahmen, 
auf gleichem Fusse gelebt, sich der gleichen Rechte erfreuend, dieselben 
Pflichten erfiillend." (Wassa Effendi : Albanien und die Albanesen, p. 59.) 
(Berlin, 1879.) 


irregular troops, which soon after the Turkish conquest 
became the main dependence of the government in all its 
internal administration, and both classes found the same 
ready employment in the service of the local pashas, being 
accounted the bravest soldiers in the empire. Christian 
Albanians served in the Ottoman army in the Crimean War,^ 
and though they have perhaps been a little more quiet and 
agricultural than their Muslim fellow-countrymen, still the 
difference has been small : they have always retained their 
arms and military habits, have always displayed the same 
fierce, proud, untameable spirit, and been animated with the 
same intense national feeling as their brethren who had 
embraced the creed of the Prophet, ^ 

The consideration of these facts is of importance in tracing 
the spread of Islam in Albania, for it appears to have been 
propagated very gradually by the people of the country 
themselves, and not under pressure of foreign influences. 
The details that we possess of this movement are very 
meagre, as the history of Albania from the close of the 
fifteenth century to the rise of 'AH Pasha three hundred 
years later, is almost a blank; what knowledge we have, 
therefore, of the slow but continuous accession of converts 
to Islam during this period, is derived from the ecclesiastical 
chronicles of the various dioceses,^ and the reports sent in 
from time to time to the Pope and the Congregatio de 
Propaganda Fide.* But it goes without saying that the 
very nature of these sources gives the information derived 
from them the stamp of imperfection — especially in the 
matter of the motives assigned for conversion. For an 
ecclesiastic of those times to have even entertained the 
possibility of a conversion to Islam from genuine conviction 
— much less have openly expressed such an opinion in 
writing to his superiors — is well-nigh inconceivable. 

^ Finlay, vol. v. p. 46. 

^ Clark, pp. 175-7. The Mirdites, who are very fanatical Roman 
Catholics (in the diocese of Alessio), will not suffer a Muhammadan to hve 
in their mountains, and no member of their tribe has ever abjured his faith ; 
were any Mirdite to attempt to do so, he would certainly be put to death, 
unless he succeeded in making good his escape from Albania. (Hecquard : 
Histoire de la Haute Albanie, p. 224.) 

3 Published in Farlati's Illyricum Sacrum. 

* Alessandro Comuleo, 1593. Bizzi, 1610. Marco Crisio, 1651. Fra 
Bonaventura di S. Antonio, 1652. Zmaievich, 1703. 


During the sixteenth century, Islam appears to have made 
but httle progress, though the tide of conversion had already 
set in. In 1610 the Christian population exceeded the 
Muhammadan in the proportion of ten to one,i and as most 
of the villages were inhabited by Christians, with a very 
small admixture of Muhammadans,^ the conversions appear 
to have been more frequent in the large towns. In Antivari, 
for example, while many Christians elected to emigrate into 
the neighbouring Christian countries, the majority of those 
who remained, both high-born and low, went over gradually 
to the Muslim faith, so that the Christian population grew 
less and less day by day.^ As the number of accessions to 
Islam increased, churches were converted into mosques — 
a measure which, though contrary to the terms of the 
capitulation, seems justified by the change in the religion 
of the people.* In 1610 two collegiate churches only re- 
mained in the hands of the Latin Christians, but these 
appear to have sufficed for the needs of the community ; ^ 
what this amounted to can only roughly be guessed from the 
words of Marco Bizzi : " There are about 600 houses inhabited 
indiscriminately by Muhammadans and Christians — both 
Latin and Schismatics (i.e. of the Orthodox Greek Church) : 
the number of the Muhammadans is a httle in excess of 
the Christians, and that of the Latins in excess of the 

In the accounts we have of the social relations between 
the Christians and the Mushms, and in the absence of any 
sharp line of demarcation between the two communities, 
we find some clue to the manner in which Muhammadan 
influences gradually gained converts from among the 
Christian population in proportion as the vigour and the 
spiritual hfe of the Church dechned. 

1 Bizzi, fol. 60, b. " Bizzi, fol. 35, a. ^ Farlati, vol. vii. pp. 104, 107. 

* It is also complained that the Archbishop's palace was appropriated 
by the Muhammadans, but it had been left unoccupied for eight years, as 
Archbishop Ambrosius (flor. 1579-1598) had found it prudent to go into 
exile, having attacked Islam " with more fervour than caution, inveighing 
against Muhammad and damning his Satanic doctrines." (Farlati, vol. 
vii. p. 107.) 

* Bizzi, fol. 9. where he says, " E comunicai quella mattina quasi tutta 
la Christianity latina." From a comparison with statistics given by 
Zmaievich (fol. 227) I would hazard the conjecture that the Latin Christian 
community at this time amounted to rather over a thousand souls. 


It had become very common for Christian parents to 
give their daughters in marriage to Muhammadans, and for 
Christian women to make no objection to such unions. ^ 
The male children born of these mixed marriages were 
brought up as Musalmans, but the girls were allowed to 
follow the religion of their mother. ^ Such permission was 
rendered practically ineffective by the action of the Christian 
ecclesiastics, who ordered the mothers to be excluded from 
the churches and from participation in the sacraments ; ^ 
and consequently (though the parish priests often dis- 
regarded the commands of their superiors) many of these 
women embraced the faith of their husbands. But even 
then they kept up a superstitious observance of the rite of 
baptism, which was supposed to be a sovereign specific 
against leprosy, witches and wolves,* and Christian priests 
were found ready to pander to this superstition for any 
Muhammadan woman who wished to have her children 
baptised. 5 This good feeling between the members of the 
two religions ^ is similarly illustrated by the attendance of 
Muhammadans at the festivals of Christian saints ; e. g. 
Marco Bizzi says that on the feast-day of St. Elias (for whom 
the Albanians appear to have had a special devotion) there 
were as many Muhammadans present in the church as 
Christians.' Even to the present day we are told that 
Albanian Muhammadans revere the Virgin Mary and the 
Christian saints, and make pilgrimages to their shrines, 

^ Bizzi, fol. 27, b; 38, b. 

2 Veniero, fol. 34. This was also the custom in some villages of Albania 
as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century ; see W. M. Leake : Travels 
in Northern Greece, vol. i. p. 49. (London, 1835) : "In some villages, 
Mahometans are married to Greek women, the sons are educated as Turks, 
and the daughters as Christians; and pork and mutton are eaten at the 
same table." 

' Bizzi, fol. 38, b. Farlati, tom. vii. p. 158. 

* Bizzi, fol. 10, b. Veniero, fol. 34. 

* Shortly after Marco Bizzi's arrival at Antivari a Muhammadan lady 
of high rank wished to have her child baptised by the Archbishop himself, 
who tells us that she complained bitterly to one of the leading Christians of 
the city that " io non mi fossi degnato di far a lei questo piacere, il qual 
quotidianamente vien fatto dai miei preti a richiesta di qualsivoglia plebeo " 
(fol. 10, b). 

* For modern instances of the harmonious relations subsisting between 
the followers of the two faiths living together in the same village, see 
Hyacinthe Hecquard : Histoire et description de la Haute Albanie (pp. 
153, 162, 200). (Paris, 1858.) 

' Bizzi, fol. 38, a. 


while Christians on the other hand resort to the tombs of 
MusHm saints for the cure of ailments or in fulfilment of 
vows.^ In the town of Calevacci, where there were sixty 
Christian and ten Muhammadan households, the followers 
of the Prophet contributed towards the support of the parish 
priest, as the majority of them had Christian wives. ^ Under 
such circumstances it is hardly surprising to learn that many 
openly professed Islam, while satisfying their consciences 
by saying that they professed Christianity in their hearts.^ 
Marco Bizzi has three explanations to offer for such a lapse — 
the attraction of worldly advantage, the desire to avoid the 
payment of tribute, and the want of a sufficiently large 
number of intelligent clergy to supply the spiritual needs of 
the country.* Conversions are frequently ascribed to the 
pressure of the burden of taxation imposed upon the Chris- 
tians, and whole villages are said to have apostatised to 
avoid payment of the tribute. As no details are given, it 
is impossible to judge whether there was really sufficient 
ground for the complaint, or whether this was not the 
apology for their conduct alleged by the renegades in order 
to make some kind of excuse to their former co-rehgionists — 
or indeed an exaggeration on the part of ecclesiastics to 
whom a genuine conversion to Islam on rational grounds 
seemed an absolute impossibility. A century later (in 1703) 
the capitation-tax was six reals a head for each male and 
this (with the exception of a tax, termed sciataraccio, of 
three reals a year) was the only burden imposed on the 
Christians exclusively.^ Men must have had very little 
attachment to their religion to abandon it merely in order to 
be quit of so slight a penalty, and with no other motive ; 
and the very existence of so large a body of Christians in 
Albania at the present time shows that the burden could not 
have been so heavy as to force them into apostasy without 
any other alternative. 

If only we had something more than vague general com- 
plaints against the " Turkish tyranny," we should be better 
able to determine how far this could have had such a 

^ Garnett, p. 267. ^ Bizzi, fol. 36, b. 

^ Id. fol. 38, b. ; 37, a. * Bizzi, fol. 38, b; 61, a; 37, a; 33, b. 

^ Zmaievich, fol. 5. The Venetian real in the eighteenth century was 
equal to a Turkish piastre. (Businello, p. 94.) 


preponderating influence as is ascribed to it : but the evid- 
ence alleged seems hardly to warrant such a conclusion. The 
vicious practice followed by the Ottoman Court of selling 
posts in the provinces to the highest bidder and the uncer- 
tainty of the tenure of such posts, often resulted in the 
occupants trying to amass as large a fortune as possible by 
extortions of every kind. But such burdens are said to 
have weighed as heavily on Muhammadans as Christians. ^ 
Though certainly an avaricious and unjust official may have 
found it easier to oppress the Christians than the Muslims, 
especially when the former were convicted of treasonable 
correspondence with the Venetians and other Christian 
states and were suspected of a wish to revolt. 

However this may have been, there can be little doubt 
of the influence exerted by the zealous activity and vigorous 
life of Islam in the face of the apathetic and ignorant 
Christian clergy. If Islam in Albania had many such 
exponents as the Mulla, whose sincerity, courtesy and 
friendliness are praised by Marco Bizzi, with whom he used 
to discuss religious questions, it may well have made its 
way. 2 The majority of the Christian clergy appear to have 
been wholly unlettered : most of them, though they could 
read a little, did not know how to write, and were so ignorant 
of the duties of their sacred calling that they could not even 
repeat the formula of absolution by heart. ^ Though they had 
to recite the mass and other services in Latin, there were 
very few who could understand any of it, as they were 
ignorant of any language but their mother tongue, and they 
had only a vague, traditionary knowledge of the truths of 
their rehgion.* Marco Bizzi considered the inadequate 
episcopate of the country responsible for these evils, as for 
the small numbers of the clergy, and their ignorance of 
their sacred calling, and for the large number of Christians 
who grew old and even died without being confirmed, and 
apostatised almost everywhere ; ^ and unless this were 

1 Bizzi, fol. 12-13. Zmaievich, fol. 5. ' Bizzi, fol. lo-ii. 

3 Id. fol. 31, b. _ * Id. fol. 60. b. 

^ Id. fol. 33, b. " Qui deriva il puoco numero de Sacerdoti in quelle 
parti e la puoca loro intelligenza in quel mestiero; il gran numero de' 
Christiani, che invecchiano, et anco morono senza il Sacramento della 
Confermatione et apostatano della fade quasi per tutto." 


remedied he prophesied a rapid decay of Christianity in the 
country.! Several priests were also accused of keeping 
concubines, and of drunkenness. ^ 

It may here be observed that the Albanian priests were 
not the repositories of the national aspirations and ideals, 
as were the clergy of the Orthodox Church in other provinces 
of the Turkish empire, who in spite of their ignorance kept 
alive among their people that devotion to the Christian 
faith which formed the nucleus of the national life of the 
Greeks.^ On the contrary, the Albanians cherished a 
national feeling that was quite apart from rehgious belief, 
and with regard to the Turks, considered, in true feudal 
spirit, that as they were the masters of the country they 
ought to be obeyed whatever commands they gave.* 

There is a curious story of conversion which is said to 
have taken place owing to a want of amicable relations 
between a Christian priest and his people, as follows : 
" Many years since, when all the country was Christian, 
there stood in the city of Scutari a beautiful image of the 
Virgin Mary, to whose shrine thousands flocked every year 
from all parts of the country to offer their gifts, perform 
their devotions, and be healed of their infirmities. For 
some cause or other, however, it fell out that there was 
dissension between the priest and the people, and one day 
the latter came to the church in great crowds, declaring 
that unless the priest yielded to them they would then and 
there abjure the faith of Christ and embrace in its stead that 
of Muhammad. The priest, whether right or wrong, still 
remaining firm, his congregation tore the rosaries and crosses 
from their necks, trampled them under their feet, and going 
to the nearest mosque, were received by the Mollah into the 
fold of the True Behevers." ^ 

Through the neghgence and apathy of the Christian clergy 

1 " Se r Albania non ricevera qualche maggior agiuto in meno di anni 
andera a male quasi tutta quella Christianita per il puoco numero dei 
Vescovi e dei Sacerdoti di qualche intelligenza." (Id. fol. 6i, a.) 

2 Id. fol. 36, a. Id. fol. 64. b. 

3 Finlay, vol. v. pp. 153-4. Clark, p. 290. 

* " E quel miseri hanno fermata la conscientia in creder di non peccar 
per simil coniuntioni (i.e. the giving of Christian girls in marriage to 
Muhammadans) per esser i turchi signori del paese, e che pero non si possa, 
ne devea far altro che obbedirU quando comandano qualsivoglia cosa." 
iBizzi, fol. 38, b.) * Garnett, p. 268, 


many abuses and irregularities had been allowed to creep 
into the Christian society; in one of which, namely the 
practice of contracting marriages without the sanction of 
the Church or any religious ceremony, we find an approxi- 
mation to the Muhammadan law, which makes marriage 
a civil contract. In order to remedy this evil, the husband 
and wife were to be excluded from the Church, until they 
had conformed to the ecclesiastical law and gone through 
the service in the regular manner. ^ 

In the course of the seventeenth century, the social 
conditions and other factors, indicated above, bore fruit 
abundantly, and the numbers of the Christian population 
began rapidly to decline. In the brief space of thirty years, 
between 1620 and 1650, about 300,000 Albanians are said 
to have gone over to Islam. ^ In 1624 there were only 
2000 Catholics in the whole diocese of Antivari, and in 
the city itself only one church; at the close of the 
century, even this church was no longer used for Christian 
worship, as there were only two families of Roman 
Catholics left.^ In the whole country generally, the 
majority of the Christian community in 1651 was com- 
posed of women, as the male population had apostatised in 
such large numbers to Islam. ^ Matters were still worse at 
the close of the century, the Catholics being then fewer in 
number than the Muhammadans, the proportions being 
about I to 1^,5 whereas less than a hundred years before, 
they had outnumbered the Muhammadans in the proportion 
of 10 to I ; ^ in the Archbishopric of Durazzo the Christian 
population had decreased by about half in twenty years,' 
in another town (in the diocese of Kroia) the entire popula- 
tion passed from Christianity to Islam in the course of thirty 
years. ^ In spite of the frequent protests and regulations 
made by their ecclesiastical superiors, the parish priests 
continued to countenance the open profession of Islam along 
with a secret adherence to Christianity, on the part of many 
male members of their flocks, by administering to them the 
Blessed Sacrament ; the result of which was that the children 

1 Bizzi, fol. 38, b; 63, a. ^ Kyriakos, p. 12. 

^ Farlati, torn. vii. pp. 124, i^i, * Marco Crisio, p. 202. 

* Zmaievich, fol. 227. « Bizzi, fol. 60, b. 

^ Zmaievich, fol, 137. b Zmaievich, fol. 157. 


of such persons, being brought up as Muhammadans, were 
for ever lost to the Christian Church. ^ Similarly, Christian 
parents still gave their daughters in marriage to Muhamma- 
dans, the parish priests countenancing such unions by 
administering the sacrament to such women, ^ in spite of the 
fulminations of the higher clergy against such indulgence. ^ 
Such action on the part of the lower clergy can hardly, 
however, be taken as indicating any great zeal on behalf of 
the spiritual welfare of their flocks, in the face of the accusa- 
tions brought against them; the majority of them are 
accused of being scandalous livers, who very seldom went to 
confession and held drunken revels in their parsonages on 
festival days ; they sold the property of the Church, fre- 
quently absented themselves from their parishes, and when 
censured, succeeded in getting off by putting themselves 
under the protection of the Turks.* The Reformed 
Franciscans and the Observants who had been sent to 
minister to the spiritual wants of the people did nothing 
but quarrel and go to law with one another; much to the 
scandal of the laity and the neglect of the mission. ^ In the 
middle of the seventeenth century five out of the twelve 
Albanian sees were vacant ; the diocese of Pullati had not 
been visited by a bishop for thirty years, and there were 
only two priests to 6348 souls.® In some parishes in the 
interior of the country, there had been no priests for more 
than forty years ; and this was in no way due to the oppres- 
sion of the " Turkish tyrant," for when at last four Fran- 
ciscan missionaries were sent, they reported that they could 
go through the country and exercise their sacred ofhce 
without any hindrance whatever.' The bishop of Sappa, 
to the great prejudice of his diocese, had been long resident 
in Venice, where he is said to have lived a vicious life, and 
had appointed as his vicar an ignorant priest who was a 
notorious evil-liver : this man had 12,400 souls under his 
charge, and, says the ecclesiastical visitor, " through the 
absence of the bishop there is danger of his losing his own 

1 Zmaievich, fol. ii, 159. 2 Zmaievich, fol. 13. 

' Bizzi, fol. 38, b. Farlati, vol. vii. p. 158. 

* Zmaievich, fol. 13-14. 

' Informatione circa la missione d'Albania, fol. 196. 

* Crisio, fol. 204. ' Fra Bonaventura, fol. 201 


soul and compassing the destruction of the souls under him 
and of the property of the Church." ^ The bishop of Scutari 
was looked upon as a tyrant by his clergy and people, and 
only succeeded in keeping his post through the aid of the 
Turks ; ^ and Zmaievich complains of the bishops generally 
that they burdened the parishes in their diocese with forced 
contributions.^ It appears that Christian ecclesiastics were 
authorised by the Sultan to levy contributions on their 
flocks. Thus the Archbishop of Antivari (1599-1607) was 
allowed to " exact and receive " two aspers from each 
Christian family, twelve for every first marriage (and double 
the amount for a second, and quadruple for a third marriage) , 
and one gold piece from each parish annually, and it seems 
to have been possible to obtain the assistance of the Turkish 
authorities in levying these contributions.* 

Throughout the whole of Albania there was not a single 
Christian school,^ and the priests were profoundly ignorant : 
some were sent to study in Italy, but Marco Crisio condemns 
this practice, as such priests were in danger of finding life 
in Italy so pleasant that they refused to return to their 
native country. With a priesthood so ignorant and so 
careless of their sacred duties, it is not surprising to learn 
that the common people had no knowledge even of the rudi- 
ments of their faith, and that numerous abuses and corrup- 
tions sprang up among them, which " wrought the utmost 
desolation to this vineyard of the Lord." ^ Many Christians 
lived in open concubinage for years, still, however, being 
admitted to the sacraments,' while others had a plurality 
of wives.® In this latter practice we notice an assimilation 
between the habits of the two communities — the Christian 
and the Muslim — which is further illustrated by the ad- 
mission of Muhammadans as sponsors at the baptism of 
Christian children, while the old superstitious custom of 
baptising Muhammadan children was still sanctioned by 
the priests. 9 

1 Marco Crisio, fol. 202, 205. 2 i{j_ fQj^ 205. 

^ Zmaievich, fol. 13. 

* Farlati, torn. vii. p. 109. Bizzi, fol. 19, b. 

^ Marco Crisio, fol. 205. ^ Zmaievich, fol. 11. 

' Id. fol. 32. 8 Crisio, fol. 204. 

^ Zmaievich, fol. 11. Farlati, vol. vii. p. 151. 


Such being the state of the Christian Church in Albania in 
the latter half of the seventeenth century, some very trifling 
incentive would have been enough to bring about a wide- 
spread apostasy; and the punishment inflicted on the re- 
bellious Catholics in the latter half of the century was a 
determining factor more than sufficient to consummate the 
tendencies that had been drawing them towards Islam and 
to cause large numbers of them to fall away from the Christian 
Church. The rebellious movement referred to seems to have 
been instigated by George, the thirty-ninth Archbishop of 
Antivari (1635-1644), who through the bishops of Durazzo, 
Scodra and Alessio tried to induce the leaders of the Christian 
community to conspire against the Turkish rule and hand 
over the country to the neighbouring Christian power, the 
Republic of Venice. As in his time Venice was at peace with 
the Turks a fitting opportunity for the hatching of this plot 
did not occur, but in 1645 war broke out between Turkey 
and the Republic, and the Venetians made an unsuccessful 
attempt to capture the city of Antivari, which before the 
Turkish conquest had been in their possession for more than 
three centuries (1262-1571). The Albanian Catholics who 
had sided with the enemy and secretly given them assistance 
were severely punished and deprived of their privileges, 
while the Greek Christians (who had everything to fear in 
the event of the restoration of the Venetian rule and had 
remained faithful to the Turkish government) were liberally 
rewarded and were lauded as the saviours of their country. 
Many of the Catholics either became Muhammadans or 
joined the Greek Church. The latter fact is very significant 
as showing that there was no persecution of the Christians 
as such, nor any attempt to force the acceptance of Islam 
upon them. The Catholics who became Muhammadans 
did so to avoid the odium of their position after the failure 
of their plot, and could have gained the same end and have 
at the same time retained their Christian faith by joining 
the Greek Church, which was not only officially recognised 
by the Turkish government but in high favour in Antivari 
at this time : so that those who neglected to do so, could 
have had very little attachment to the Christian rehgion. 
The same remark holds good of the numerous conversions 


to Islam in the succeeding years : Zmaievich attributes 
them in some cases to the desire to avoid the payment of 
tribute, but, from what has been said above, it is very 
unhkely that this was the sole determining motive. 

In 1649 a still more widespread insurrection broke out, 
an Archbishop of Antivari, Joseph Maria Bonaldo (1646- 
1654), being again the main instigator of the movement; 
and the leading citizens of Antivari, Scodra and other towns 
conspired to throw open their gates to the army of the 
Venetian Repubhc. But this plot also failed and the in- 
surrection was forcibly crushed by the Turkish troops, aided 
by the dissensions that arose among the Christians them- 
selves. Many Albanians whose influence was feared were 
transported from their own country into the interior of the 
Turkish dominions ; a body of 3000 men crossed the border 
into Venetian territory ; those who remained were overawed 
by the erection of fortresses and the marching of troops 
through the disaffected districts, while heavy fines were 
imposed upon the malcontents. ^ 

Unfortunately the Christian writers who complain of the 
" unjust tributes and vexations " with which the Turks 
oppressed the Albanians, so that they apostatised to Islam,^ 
make use only of general expressions, and give us no details 
to enable us to judge whether or not such complaints were 
justified by the facts. Zmaievich prefaces his account of 
the apostasy of 2000 persons with an enumeration of 
the taxes and other burdens the Christians had to bear, but 
all these, he says, were common also to the Muhammadans, 
with the exception of the capitation-tax of six reals a year 
for each male, and another tax, termed sciataraccio, of three 
reals a year.^ He concludes with the words : " The nation, 
wounded by these taxes in its weakest part, namely, worldly 
interest, to the consideration of which it has a singular 
leaning either by nature or by necessity, has given just cause 
for lamenting the deplorable loss of about 2000 souls who 
apostatised from the true faith so as not to be subject to 
the tribute." ^ There is nothing in his report to show that 

^ Farlati, vol. vii. pp. 126-32. Zmaievich, fol. 4-5, fol. 20. 
* " Plerique, ut se iniquis tributis et vexationibus eximerent, paullatim 
a Christiana reHgione deficere coeperunt." (Farlati, torn. vii. p. 311.) 
^ Zmaievich fol. 5. * Id. fol. 5. 


the taxes the Cathohcs had to pay constituted so intolerable 
a burden as to force them to renounce their creed, and though 
he attributes many conversions to Islam to the desire of 
escaping the tribute, he says expressly that these apostasies 
from the Christian faith are mainly to be ascribed to the 
extreme ignorance of the clergy/ in great measure also to 
their practice of admitting to the sacraments those who 
openly professed Islam while in secret adhering to the 
Christian faith : ^ in another place he says, speaking of the 
clergy who were not fit to be parish priests and their practice 
of administering the sacraments to apostates and secret 
Christians : " These are precisely the two causes from which 
have come all the losses that the Christian Church has 
sustained in Albania." ^ There is very httle doubt that the 
widespread apostasy at this time was the result of a long 
series of influences similar to those mentioned in the preceding 
pages, and that the dehverance from the payment of the 
tribute was the last link in the chain. 

What active efforts Muhammadans themselves were 
making to gain over the Christians to Islam, we can hardly 
expect to learn from the report of an ecclesiastical visitor. 
But we find mention of a district, the inhabitants of which, 
from their intercourse with the Turks, had " contracted 
the vices of these infidels," and one of the chief causes of 
their falling away from the Christian faith was their con- 
tracting marriages with Turkish women.* There were no 
doubt strong Muhammadan influences at work here, as also 
in the two parishes of Biscascia and Basia, whose joint 
population of nearly a thousand souls was " exposed to the 
obvious risk of apostatising through lack of any pastor," 
and were " much tempted in their faith, and needed to be 
strengthened in it by wise and zealous pastors." ^ 

Zmaievich speaks of one of the old noble Christian families 
in the neighbourhood of Antivari which was represented at 
that time by two brothers; the elder of these had been 
" wheedled " by the prominent Muhammadans of the 
place, who were closely related to him, into denying his 

1 Zmaievich, fol. 15, 197. ^ Id. fol. 11. 

» Id. fol. 137. * Id. fol. 149. 

Id. fol. 143-4. 


faith; the younger wished to study for the priesthood, in 
which office " he would be of much assistance to the Christian 
Church through the high esteem in which the Turks held his 
family; which though poor was universally respected," ^ 
This indeed is another indication of the fact that the Muham- 
madans did not ill-treat the Christians, merely as such, but 
only when they showed themselves to be politically dis- 
affected. Zmaievich, who was himself an Albanian, and 
took up his residence in his diocese instead of in Venetian 
territory, as many of the Archbishops of Antivari seem to 
have done, 2 was received with " extraordinary honours " 
and with " marvellous courtesy," not only by the Turkish 
officials generally, but also by the Supreme Pasha of Albania 
himself, who gave him the place of honour in his Divan, 
always accompanying him to the door on his departure and 
receiving him there on his arrival.^ This " barbarian " 
who " showed himself more like a generous-hearted Christian 
than a Turk," gave more substantial marks of good feeling 
towards the Christians by remitting — at the Archbishop's 
request — the tribute due for the ensuing year from four 
separate towns.* If any of the Christian clergy were 
roughly treated by the Turks, it seems generally to have 
been due to the suspicion of treasonable correspondence 
with the enemies of the Turks ; ecclesiastical visits 
to Italy seem also to have excited — and in many 
cases, justly — such suspicions. Otherwise the Christian 
clergy seem to have had no reason to complain of the 
treatment they received from the Muslims; Zmaievich 
even speaks of one parish priest being " much beloved by 
the principal Turks," ^ and doubtless there were parallels 
in Albania to the case of a priest in the diocese of Trebinje 
in Herzegovina, who in the early part of the eighteenth 
century was suspected, on account of his familiar intercourse 
with Muhammadans, of having formed an intention to 
embrace Islam, and was accordingly sent by his bishop to 
Rome under safe custody.^ 

No subsequent period of Albanian history appears to 

^ Zmaievich, fol. 22. ^ Farlati, torn. vii. p. 141. 

^ Zmaievich, fol. 7, 17. * Id. fol. 9. 

* Id. fol. 141. * Farlati, vol. vi. p. 317. 


have witnessed such widespread apostasy as the seventeenth 
century, but there have been occasional accessions to Islam 
up to more recent times. In Southern Albania, the country 
of the Tosks, the preponderance of the Muhammadan 
population placed the Christians at a disadvantage, and a 
story is told of the Karamurtads, inhabitants of thirty-six 
villages near Pogoniani, that up to the close of the eighteenth 
century they were Christians, but finding themselves unable 
to repel the continual attacks of the neighbouring Muham- 
madan population of Leskoviki, they met in a church and 
prayed that the saints might work some miracle on their 
behalf; they swore to fast till Easter in expectation of the 
divine assistance ; but Easter came and no miracle was 
wrought, so the whole population embraced Islam; soon 
afterwards they obtained the arms they required and 
massacred their old enemies in Leskoviki and took 
possession of their lands. i Community of faith in 
Albania is never allowed to stand in the way of a tribal 
feud. Even up to the nineteenth century Albanian tribes 
and villages have changed their religion for very trivial 
reasons; part of one Christian tribe is said to have turned 
Muhammadan because their priest, who served several 
villages and visited them first, insisted on saying mass at 
an unreasonably early hour.^ 

At the present day the Muhammadans in Albania are said 
to number about 1,000,000 and the Christians 480,000, but 
the accuracy of these figures is not certain. The Mirdites 
are entirely Christian ; they submitted to the Sultan on 
condition that no Muslim would be allowed to settle in their 
territory, but adherents of both the rival creeds are found in 
almost all the other tribes. Central Albania is said to be 
almost entirely Muhammadan, and the followers of Islam 
form about sixty per cent, of the population of Northern 
Albania; the Christian population attains its largest pro- 
portion in Southern Albania, especially in the districts 
bordering upon Greece. 

The kingdom of Servia first paid tribute to the Ottomans 
in 1375 and lost its independence after the disastrous defeat 
of Kossovo (1389), where both the king of Servia and the 

^ Eliot, p. 401. * Id. p. 392. 


Turkish sultan were left dead upon the field. The successors 
of the two sovereigns entered into a friendly compact, the 
young Servian prince, Stephen, acknowledged the suzerainty 
of Turkey, gave his sister in marriage to the new sultan, 
Bayazid, and formed with him a league of brotherhood. At 
the battle of Nikopolis (1394), which gave to the Turks 
assured possession of the whole Balkan peninsula, except 
the district surrounding Constantinople, the Servian con- 
tingent turned the wavering fortune of the battle and gave 
the victory to the Turks. On the field of Angora (1402), 
when the Turkish power was annihilated and Bayazid 
himself taken prisoner by Timiir, Stephen was present with 
his Servian troops and fought bravely for his brother-in-law, 
and instead of taking this opportunity of securing his inde- 
pendence, remained faithful to his engagement, and stood 
by the sons of Bayazid until they recovered their father's 
throne. Under the successor of Stephen, George Brankovich, 
Servia enjoyed a semi-independence, but when in 1438 he 
raised the standard of revolt, his country was again overrun 
by the Turks. Then for a time Servia had to acknowledge 
the suzerainty of Hungary, but the defeat of John Hunyady 
at Varna in 1444 brought her once more under tribute, and 
in 1459 she finally became a Turkish province. 

It is not impossible that the Servians who had embraced 
Islam after the battle of Kossovo had knowledge of the fate 
of the little Muslim community that had been rooted out of 
Hungary about a century before, and therefore preferred 
the domination of the Turks to that of the Hungarians. 
Yaqiit gives the following account of his meeting, about the 
year 1228, with some members of this group of followers of 
the Prophet in mediaeval Europe, who had owed their 
conversion to Muslims who had settled among them. " In 
the city of Aleppo, I met a large number of persons called 
Bashkirs, with reddish hair and reddish faces. They were 
studying law according to the school of Abii Hanifah (may 
God be well pleased with him !) I asked one of them who 
seemed to be an intelligent fellow for information concern- 
ing their country and their condition. He told me, ' Our 
country is situated on the other side of Constantinople, in a 
kingdom of a people of the Franks called the Hungarians. 


We are Muslims, subjects of their king, and live on the border 
of his territory, occupying about thirty villages, which are 
almost like small towns. But the king of the Hungarians 
does not allow us to build walls round any of them, lest we 
should revolt against him. We are situated in the midst of 
Christian countries, having the land of the Slavs on the north, 
on the south, that of the Pope, i. e. Rome (now the Pope 
is the head of the Franks, the vicar of the Messiah in their 
eyes, like the commander of the faithful in the eyes of the 
Muslims ; his authority extends over all matters connected 
with religion among the whole of them) ; on the west, 
Andalusia ; on the east, the land of the Greeks, Constanti- 
nople and its provinces.' He added, ' Our language is the 
language of the Franks, we dress after their fashion, we 
serve with them in the army, and we join them in attacking 
all their enemies, because they only go to war with the 
enemies of Islam.' I then asked him how it was they had 
adopted Islam in spite of their dwelling in the midst of the 
unbelievers. He answered, ' I have heard several of our 
forefathers say that a long time ago seven Muslims came 
from Bulgaria and settled among us. In kindly fashion 
they pointed out to us our errors and directed us into the 
right way, the faith of Islam. Then God guided us and 
(praise be to God !) we all became Muslims and God opened 
our hearts to the faith. We have come to this country to 
study law; when we return to our own land, the people 
will do us honour and put us in charge of their religious 
affairs.' " ^ Islam kept its ground among the Bashkirs of 
Hungary until 1340, when King Charles Robert compelled 
all his subjects that were not yet Christians to embrace the 
Christian faith or quit the country.^ 

The Servian Muslims may, therefore, well have been 
pleased to escape from the rule of Hungary, like their 
Christian fellow-countrymen, for when these were given 
the choice between the Roman Catholic rule of Hungary and 
the Muslim rule of the Turks, the devotion of the Servians 
to the Greek Church led them to prefer the tolerance of 
the Muhammadans to the uncompromising proselytising 

^ Yaqut, vol. i. p. 469 sq. 

* Geographie d'Aboulfeda, traduite par M. Reinaud, tome ii. pp 294-5. 


spirit of the Latins. An old legend thus represents their 
feelings at this time : — The Turks and the Hungarians were 
at war ; George Brankovich sought out John Hunyady and 
asked him, " If you are victorious, what will you do ? " 
" Establish the Roman Catholic faith," was the answer. 
Then he sought out the sultan and asked him, " If you come 
out victorious, what will you do with our religion ? " " By 
the side of every mosque shall stand a church, and every 
man shall be free to pray in whichever he chooses." ^ The 
treachery of some Servian priests forced the garrison of 
Belgrade to capitulate to the Turks ; ^ similarly the Servians 
of Semendria, on the Danube, welcomed the Turkish troops 
who in 1600 delivered them from the rule of their Catholic 

The spread of Islam among the Servians began imme- 
diately after the battle of Kossovo, when a large part of the 
old feudal nobility, such as still remained alive and did not 
take refuge in neighbouring Christian countries, went over 
voluntarily to the faith of the Prophet, in order to keep their 
old privileges undisturbed.* In these converted nobles the 
sultans found the most zealous propagandists of the new 
faith. ^ But the majority of the Servian people clung 
firmly to their old religion through all their troubles and 
sufferings, and only in Stara Serbia or Old Servia,® which 
now forms the north-eastern portion of modern Albania, 
has there been any very considerable number of conversions. 
Even here the spread of Muhammadanism proceeded very 
slowly until the seventeenth century, when the Austrians 
induced the Servians to rise in revolt and, after the ill-success 
of this rising, the then Patriarch, Arsenius III Tsernoievich, 
in i6go emigrated with 40,000 Servian families across the 
border into Hungary; another exodus in 1739 of 15,000 
families under the leadership of Arsenius IV Jovanovich, 
well nigh denuded this part of the country of its original 
Servian population.' 

^ Enrique Dupuy de Lome : Los Esclavos y Turquia, pp. 17-18. 
(Madrid, 1877.) 

- De la Jonquiere, p. 215. ^ Id. p. 290. 

^ Kanitz, p. 37. s j^j pp 37-8. 

® A map of this country is given by Mackenzie and Irby (p. 243) : it 

contains Prizren, the old Servian capital, Ipek, the seat of the Servian 

Patriarch, and the battle-tield of Kossovo. ' Kanitz, p. 37. 


Albanian colonists from the south pressed into the country 
vacated by the fugitives : these Albanians at the time of 
their arrival were Roman Catholics for the most part, but 
after they settled in Old Servia they gradually adopted 
Islam and at the present time the remnant of Roman 
Catholic Albanians is but small, though from time to time 
it is recruited by fresh arrivals from the mountains : the 
new-comers, however, usually follow the example of their 
predecessors, and after a while become Muhammadans.^ 

After this Albanian immigration, Islam began to spread 
more rapidly among the remnant of the Servian population. 
The Servian clergy were very ignorant and unlettered, 
they could only manage with diihculty to read their service- 
books and hardly any had learned to write; they neither 
preached to the people nor taught them the catechism, 
consequently in whole villages scarcel}^ a man could be 
found who knew the Lord's Prayer or how many command- 
ments there were ; even the priests themselves were quite 
as ignorant.^ After the insurrection of i68g, the Patriarch 
of Ipek, the ecclesiastical capital of Servia, was appointed 
by the Porte, but in 1737, as the result of another rebellion, 
the Servian Patriarchate was entirely suppressed and the 
Servian Church made dependent upon the Greek Patriarch 
of Constantinople. The churches were filled with Greek 
bishops, who made common cause with the Turkish Beys 
and Pashas in bleeding the unfortunate Christians : their 
national language was proscribed and the Old Slavonic 
service-books, etc., were collected and sent off to Con- 
stantinople.^ With such a clergy it is not surprising that 
the Christian faith should decline : e. g. in the commune of 
Gora (in the district of Prizren), which had begun to become 
Muhammadanised soon after the great exodus of 1690, the 
Servians that still clung to the Christian faith, appealed 
again and again to the Greek bishop of Prizren to send them 
priests, at least occasionally, but all in vain; their children 
remained unbaptised, weddings and burials were conducted 
without the blessing of the Church, and the consecrated 
buildings fell into decay.^ In the neighbouring district 

1 Mackenzie and Irby, pp. 250-1. - Farlati, vol. vii. pp. 127-8. 

•> Mackenzie and Irby, pp. 374-5. Kanitz, p. 39. ^ Id. pp. 39-40. 


of Opolje, similarly, the present Muslim population of 
9500 souls is probably for the most part descended from the 
original Slav inhabitants of the place. ^ At the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, Bizzi found in the city of 
Jagnevo, 120 Roman Catholic households, 200 Greek and 
180 Muhammadan; ^ less than a hundred years later, every 
house in the city was looked upon as Muhammadan, as the 
head of each family professed this faith and the women 
only, with some of the children, were Christian.^ About 
the middle of the eighteenth century, the village of Ljurs 
was entirely Catholic ; in 1863 there were 90 Muslim and 
23 Christian families, but at the present day this village, 
together with the surrounding villages, has wholly given 
up Christianity.^ Until recently some lingering survivals 
of their old Christian faith, such as the burning of the 
Yule-log at Christmas, etc., were still to be met with in 
certain villages, but such customs are now fast dying out. 

After the battle of Kossovo and the downfall of the Servian 
empire, the wild highlands of Montenegro afforded a refuge 
to those Servians who would not submit to the Turks but 
were determined to maintain their independence. It is not 
the place here to relate the history of the heroic struggles 
of this brave people against overwhelming odds, how 
through centuries of continual warfare, under the rule of 
their prince-bishops, ^ they have kept alive a free Christian 
state when all their brethren of the same race had been 
compelled to submit to Muhammadan rule. While the 
very basis of their separate existence as a nation was their 
firm adherence to the Christian faith it could hardly have 
been expected that Islam would have made its way among 
them, but in the seventeenth century many Montenegrins 
in the frontier districts became Muhammadans and took 
service with the neighbouring Pashas. But in 1703, Daniel 
Petrovich, the then reigning bishop, called the tribes to- 
gether and told them that the only hope for their country 
and their faith lay in the destruction of the Muhammadans 
living among them. Accordingly, on Christmas Eve, all 

1 Kanitz, p. 38. - Bizzi, fol. 48, b. 

•* Zmaievich, fol. 182. "* Kanitz, p. 38. 

* Montenegro was ruled by bishops from 1516 to 1852. 


the converted Montenegrins who would not forswear Islam 
and embrace Christianity were massacred in cold blood. ^ 

To pass now to Bosnia : — in this country the religious and 
social conditions of the people, before the Turkish conquest, 
merit especial attention. The majority of the population 
belonged to a heretical Christian sect, called Bogomiles, 
who from the thirteenth century had been exposed to the 
persecution of the Roman Catholics and against whom 
Popes had on several occasions preached a Crusade. ^ In 
1325, Pope John XXII wrote thus to the king of Bosnia : 
" To our beloved son and nobleman, Stephen, Prince of 
Bosnia, — knowing that thou art a faithful son of the Church, 
we therefore charge thee to exterminate the heretics in thy 
dominion, and to render aid and assistance to Fabian, our 
Inquisitor, forasmuch as a large multitude of heretics from 
many and divers parts collected hath flowed together into 
the principality of Bosnia, trusting there to sow their 
obscene errors and dwell there in safety. These men, imbued 
with the cunning of the Old Fiend, and armed with the venom 
of their falseness, corrupt the minds of Catholics by outward 
show of simplicity and the sham assumption of the name of 
Christians ; their speech crawleth like a crab, and they creep 
in with humilit}^ but in secret they kill, and are wolves in 
sheep's clothing, covering their bestial fury as a means to 
deceive the simple sheep of Christ. ' ' In the fifteenth century, 
the sufferings of the Bogomiles became so intolerable that 
they appealed to the Turks to deliver them from their 
unhappy condition, for the king of Bosnia and the priests 
were pushing the persecution of the Bogomiles to an extreme 
which perhaps it had never reached before ; as many as forty 
thousand of them fled from Bosnia and took refuge in neigh- 
bouring countries ; others who did not succeed in making 
their escape, were sent in chains to Rome. But even these 
violent measures did little to diminish the strength of the 
Bogomiles in Bosnia, as in 1462 we are told that heresy was 
as powerful as ever in this country'. The following year, 
when Bosnia was invaded by Muhammad II, the Cathohc 

* E. L. Clark, pp. 362-3. 

* Honnrius III in 1221, Gregory IX in 1238, Innocent IV in 1246. 
Benedict XU in 1337. The Inquisition was established in 1291. 


king found himself deserted by his subjects : the keys of the 
principal fortress, the royal city of Bobovatz, were handed 
over to the Turks by the Bogomile governor; the other 
fortresses and towns hastened to follow this example, and 
within a week seventy cities passed into the hands of the 
Sultan, and Muhammad II added Bosnia to the number of 
his numerous conquests. ^ 

From this time forth we hear but little of the Bogomiles ; 
they seem to have willingly embraced Islam in large numbers 
immediately after the Turkish conquest, and the rest seem 
to have gradually followed later, while the Bosnian Roman 
CathoHcs emigrated into the neighbouring territories of 
Hungary and Austria. It has been supposed by some 2 
that a large proportion of the Bogomiles, at least in the 
earHer period of the conquest, embraced Islam with the 
intention of returning to their faith when a favourable 
opportunity presented itself ; as, being constantly persecuted 
they may have learnt to deny their faith for the time being ; 
but that, when this favourable opportunity never arrived, 
this intention must have gradually been lost sight of and 
at length have been entirely forgotten by their descendants. 
Such a supposition is, however, a pure conjecture and has no 
direct evidence to support it. We may rather find the reason 
for the willingness of the Bogomiles to allow themselves to 
be merged in the general mass of the Musalman believers, 
in the numerous points of likeness between their peculiar 
behefs and the tenets of Islam. They rejected the worship 
of the Virgin Mary, the institution of Baptism and every 
form of priesthood.^ They abominated the cross as a religi- 
ous symbol, and considered it idolatry to bow down before 
religious pictures and the images and relics of the saints. 
Their houses of prayer were very simple and unadorned, in 
contrast to the gaudily decorated Roman Catholic churches, 
and they shared the Muhammadan dishke of bells, which 
they styled " the devil's trumpets." They beheved that 

^ Asboth, pp. 42-95. Evans, pp. xxxvi-xlii. 

2 Asboth, pp. 96-7. 

3 " They revile the ceremonies of the church and all church dignitaries, 
and they call orthodox priests blind Pharisees, and bay at them as dogs at 
horses. As to the Lord's Supper, they assert that it is not kept according 
to God's commandment, and that it is not the body of God, but ordinary 
breSid." (Kosmas, quoted by Evans, pp. xxx-xxxi.) 


Christ was not himself crucified but that some phantom was 
substituted in his place : in this respect agreeing partially 
with the teaching of the Qur'an.^ Their condemnation of 
wine and the general austerity of their mode of life and the 
stern severity of their outward demeanour would serve as 
further links to bind them to Islam,^ for it was said of them : 
" You will see heretics quiet and peaceful as lambs without, 
silent, and wan with hypocritical fasting, who do not speak 
much nor laugh loud, who let their beard grow, and leave 
their person incompt." ^ They prayed five times a day and 
five times a night, repeating the Lord's Prayer with frequent 
kneehngs,* and would thus find it very little change to join 
in the services of the mosque. I have brought together 
here the many points of likeness to the teachings of Islam, 
which we find in this Bogomilian heresy, but there were, of 
course, some doctrines of a distinctly Christian character 
which an orthodox Muslim could not hold ; still, with so much 
in common, it can easily be understood how the Bogomiles 
may gradually have been persuaded to give up those doctrines 
that were repugnant to the MusHm faith. Their Manichaean 
dualism was equally irreconcilable with Muslim theology, 
but Islam has always shown itself tolerant of such theological 
speculations provided that they did not issue in a schism 
and that a general assent and consent were given to the main 
principles of its theory and practice. 

The Turks, as was their usual custom, offered every 
advantage to induce the Bosnians to accept their creed. 
All who embraced Islam were allowed to retain their lands 
and possessions, and their fiefs were exempt from all taxa- 
tion,^ and it is probable that many rightful heirs of ancient 
houses who had been dispossessed for heretical opinions by 
the Catholic faction among the nobiHty, now embraced the 
opportunity of regaining their old position by submission 
to the dominant creed. The Bosnian Muhammadans 

^ Siirah iv. 156. 

2 Cf. the admiration of the Turks for Charles XII of Sweden. " Son 
opiniatrete k s'abstenir du vin, et sa regularite k assister deux fois par jour 
aux pri^res pubhques, leur fesaient dire : C'est un vrai musulman." 
(CT:uvres de Voltaire, tome 23, p. 200.) (Paris, 1785.) 

2 Kosmas, quoted by Evans, p. xxxi. 

* Asboth, p. 36. Wetzer und Welte, vol. ii. p. 975. 

? Olivier, pp. ij-J.S. 


retained their nationality and still for the most part bear 
Serb names and speak only their national tongue ; ^ at the 
same time they have always evinced a lively zeal for their 
new faith, and by their military prowess, their devotion to 
Islam and the powerful influence they exercised, the Bosnian 
nobility rapidly rose into high favour in Constantinople and 
many were entrusted with important offices of state, e.g. 
between the years 1544 and 161 1 nine statesmen of Bosnian 
origin filled the post of Grand Vizier. 

The latest territorial acquisition of the Ottoman conquests 
was the island of Crete, which in 1669 was wrested from the 
hands of the Venetian Republic by the capture of the city 
of Candia after a long and desperate siege of nearly three 
years, which closed a struggle of twenty-five years between 
these rival powers for the possession of the island. 

This was not the first time that Crete had come under 
Muslim rule. Early in the ninth century the island was 
suddenly seized by a band of Saracen adventurers from 
Spain, and it remained in their power for nearly a century 
and a half (a.d. 825-961). ^ During this period well nigh 
the whole population of the island had become Muslim, and 
the churches had either fallen into ruins or been turned into 
mosques ; but when the authority of the Byzantine empire 
was once re-established here, the people were converted 
again to their ancient faith through the skilful preaching 
of an Armenian monk, and the Christian religion became the 
only one professed on the island.^ In the beginning of the 
thirteenth century, the Venetians purchased the island from 
Boniface, Duke of Montserrat, to whose lot it had fallen after 
the partition of the Byzantine empire, and they ruled it with 
a heavy hand, apparently looking upon it only in the light 
of a purchase that was to be exploited for the benefit of the 
home government and its colonists. Their administration 
was so oppressive and tyrannical as to excite several revolts, 
which were crushed with pitiless severity ; on one of these 
occasions whole cantons in the provinces of Sfakia and Lassiti 
were depopulated, and it was forbidden under pain of death 
to sow any corn there, so that these districts remained barren 

1 Olivier, p. 113. * Amari, vol. i. p. 163; vol. ii. p. 260. 

^ Comaro, vol. i. pp. 205-8. 


and uncultivated for nearly a century.^ The terrific cruelty 
with which the Venetian senate suppressed the last of these 
attempts at the beginning of the sixteenth century added a 
crowning horror to the miserable condition of the unhappy 
Cretans, How terrible was their lot at this time we learn 
from the reports of the commissioners sent by the Venetian 
senate in the latter part of the same century, in order to 
inquire into the condition of the islanders. The peasants 
were said to be crushed down by the cruelest oppression and 
tyranny on the part of the Venetian nobles, their feudal 
lords, being reduced to a worse condition than that of slaves, 
so that they never dared even to complain of any injustice. 
Each peasant had to do twelve days' forced labour for his 
feudal lord every year without payment, and could then be 
compelled to go on working for as long as his lord required 
his services at the nominal rate of a penny a day ; his vine- 
yards were mulcted in a full third of their produce, but fraud 
and force combined generally succeeded in appropriating 
as much as two-thirds ; his oxen and mules could be seized 
for the service of the lord, who had a thousand other devices 
for squeezing the unfortunate peasant.^ The protests of 
these commissioners proved ineffectual to induce the 
Venetian senate to alleviate the unhappy condition of 
the Cretans and put a stop to the cruelty and tyranny 
of the nobles : it preferred to listen to the advice of Era 
Paolo Sarpi who in 1615 thus addressed the Republic on the 
subject of its Greek colonies : " If the gentlemen of these 
Colonies do tyrannize over the villages of their dominion, 
the best way is not to seem to see it, that there may be no 
kindness between them and their subjects." ^ 

It is not surprising to learn from the same sources that the 
Cretans longed for a change of rulers, and that " they would 
not much stick at submitting to the Turk, having the 
example of all the rest of their nation before their eyes." 
Indeed, many at this time fled into Turkey to escape the 
intolerable burden of taxation, following in the footsteps of 
countless others, who from time to time had taken refuge 

^ Perrot, p. 151. 

- Pashley, vol. i. p. 30; vol. ii. pp. 284, 291-2, 

3 Id, vol. ii. p. 298, 


there. 1 Large numbers of them also emigrated to Egypt, 
where many embraced Islam. ^ Especially galling to the 
Cretans were the exactions of the Latin clergy who appro- 
priated the endowments that belonged of right to the Greek 
ecclesiastics, and did everything they could to insult the 
Christians of the Greek rite, who constituted nine-tenths 
of the population of the island.^ The Turks, on the other 
hand, conciliated their good-will by restoring the Greek 
hierarchy. This, according to a Venetian writer, was brought 
about in the following manner : "A certain papas or priest 
of Canea went to Cusseim the Turkish general, and told 
him that if he desired to gain the good-will of the Cretan 
people, and bring detestation upon the name of Venice, it 
was necessary for him to bear in mind that the staunchest 
of the links which keep civilised society from falling asunder 
is religion. It would be needful for him to act in a way 
different from the line followed by the Venetians. These 
did their utmost to root out the Greek faith and establish 
that of Rome in its place, with which interest they had made 
an injunction that there should be no Greek bishops in the 
island. By thus removing these venerated and authoritative 
shepherds, they thought the more easily to gain control over 
the scattered flocks. This prohibition had caused such 
distress in the minds of the Cretans that they were ready 
to welcome with joy and obedience any sovereignty that 
would lend its will to the re-institution of this order in their 
hierarchy — an order so essential for the proper exercise of 
their divine worship. He added, that it would be a further 
means of conciliating the people if they were assured that 
they would not only be confirmed in the old privileges of their 
religion, but that new privileges would be granted them. 
These arguments seemed to Cusseim so plausible that he 
wrote at once to Constantinople with a statement of them. 
Here they were approved, and the Greek Patriarch was 
bidden to institute an archbishop who should be metropole 
of the Province of Candia. Under the metropolitan seven 
other bishops were also to be nominated." * 

1 Pashley, vol. ii. p. 285. 

- Id. vol. i. p. 319. ^ Perrot, p. 151. 

* Charles Edwardes : Letters from Crete, pp. 90-2. (London, 1887.) 


The Turkish conquest seems to have been very rapidly 
followed by the conversion of large numbers of the Cretans 
to Islam. It is not improbable that the same patriotism 
as made them cling to their old faith under the foreign 
domination of the Venetians who kept them at arm's length 
and regarded any attempt at assimilation as an unpardonable 
indignity,! and always tried to impress on their subjects a 
sense of their inferiority — may have led them to accept the 
religion of their new masters, which at once raised them from 
the position of subjects to that of equals and gave them a 
share in the political life and government of their country. 
Whatever may have been the causes of the widespread 
conversion of the Cretans, it seems almost incredible that 
violence should have changed the religion of a people who 
had for centuries before clung firmly to their old faith despite 
the persecution of a hostile and a foreign creed. Whatever 
may have been the means by which the ranks of Islam were 
filled, thirty years after the conquest we are told that the 
majority of the Muslims were renegades or the children of 
renegades, 2 and in little more than a century half the popula- 
tion of Crete had become Muhammadan. From one end 
of the island to the other, not only in the towns but also in 
the villages, in the inland districts and in the very heart of 
the mountains, were (and are still) found Cretan Muslims 
who in figure, habits and speech are thoroughly Greek. 
There never has been, and to the present day there is not, 
any other language spoken on the island of Crete except 
Greek ; even the few Turks to be found here had to adopt 
the language of the country and all the firmans of the Porte 
and decrees of the Pashas were read and published in Greek. ^ 
The bitter feelings between the Christians and Muhammadans 
of Crete that have made the historj^ of this island during the 
nineteenth century so sad a one, was by no means so virulent 
before the outbreak of the Greek revolution, in days when 
the Cretan Muslims were very generally in the habit of taking 
as their wives Christian maidens, the children of their Chris- 
tian friends.^ The social communication between the two 
communities was further signified by their common dress, 

* Pashlcy, vol. ii. pp. 151-2. - Td. vol. i. p. g. 

"* Perrot, p. 159. •* Pashley, vol. i. pp. 10, 195. 


as the Cretans of both creeds dressed so much ahke that the 
distinction was often not even recognised by residents of 
long standing or by Greeks of the neighbouring islands. 1 

Recent political events have brought about a considerable 
diminution in the Muhammadan population of Crete. In 
1881 the number of Muhammadans in the island was 73,234 ; 
in 1909, in consequence of continual emigrations, it had been 
reduced to 33, 496. ^ 

1 T. A. B. Spratt : Travels and Researches in Crete, vol. i. p. 47. 
(London, 1865.) 

- R. du M. M. vii. p. 99. 



In order to follow the course of the spread of Islam west- 
ward into Central Asia, we must retrace our steps to the 
period of the first Arab conquests. By the middle of the 
seventh century, the great dynasty of the Sasanids had 
fallen, and the vast empire of Persia that for four centuries 
had withstood the might of Rome and Byzantium, now be- 
came the heritage of the Muslims. When the armies of the 
state had been routed, the mass of the people offered little 
resistance ; the reigns of the last representatives of the 
Sasanid dynasty had been marked by terrible anarchy, and 
the sympathies of the people had been further alienated 
from their rulers on account of the support they gave to 
the persecuting policy of the state religion of Zoroastrianism. 
The Zoroastrian priests had acquired an enormous influence 
in the state ; they were well-nigh all-powerful in the councils 
of the king and arrogated to themselves a very large share 
in the civil administration. They took advantage of their 
position to persecute all those religious bodies— (and they 
were many) — that dissented from them. Besides the 
numerous adherents of older forms of the Persian rehgion, 
there were Christians, Jews, Sabaeans and numerous sects 
in which the speculations of Gnostics, Manichaeans and 
Buddhists found expression. In all of these, persecution 
had stirred up feelings of bitter hatred against the established 
religion and the dynasty that supported its oppressions, 
and so caused the Arab conquest to appear in the light of 
a deliverance. 1 The followers of all these varied forms of 
faith could breathe again under a rule that granted them 
religious freedom and exemption from military service, on 

^ Caetani, vol. ii. pp. 910-11. A. de Gobineau (i), pp. 55-6. 



payment of a light tribute. For the MusHm law granted 
toleration and the right of paying jizyah not only to the 
Christians and Jews, but to Zoroastrians and Sabaeans, to 
worshippers of idols, of fire and of stone.^ It was said that 
the Prophet himself had distinctly given directions that the 
Zoroastrians were to be treated exactly like " the people of 
the book," i. e. the Jews and Christians, and that jizyah 
might also be taken from them in return for protection, ^ 
— a tradition that probably arose in the second century of 
the Hijrah, when apostolic sanction was sought for the 
toleration that had been extended to all the followers of 
the various faiths that Arabs had found in the countries 
they had conquered, whether such non-Muslims came under 
the category Ahl al-Kitab or not.^ 

To the distracted Christian Church in Persia the change of 
government brought relief from the oppression of the 
Sasanid kings, who had fomented the bitter struggles of 
Jacobites and Nestorians and added to the confusion of 
warring sects. Some reference has already * been made to 
earlier persecutions, and even during the expiring agony of 
the Sasanid dynasty, Khusrau II, exasperated at the defeat 
he had suffered at the hands of the Christian emperor, 
Heraclius, ordered a fresh persecution of the Christians within 
his dominions, a persecution from which all the various 
Christian sects ahke had to suffer. These terrible conditions 
may well have prepared men's minds for that revulsion of 
feeling that facilitates a change of faith. " Side by side 
with the political chaos in the state was the moral confusion 
that filled the minds of the Christians ; distracted by such an 
accumulation of disasters and by the moral agony wrought 
by the furious conflict of so many warring doctrines among 
them, they tended towards that pecuHar frame of mind in 
which a new doctrine finds it easy to take root, making a 
clean sweep of such a bewildering babel and striving to 
reconstruct faith and society on a new basis. In other words 
the people of Persia, and especially the Semitic races, were 
just in the very mental condition calculated to make them 

^ Abu Yusuf : Kitab al-Kharaj . p. 73. 

* Id. p. 74 and Baladhuri. pp. 71 (fin.), 79, 80. 

' Caetani, vol. v. pp. 361 (§ 611 n. i), 394-5, 457. * pp. 68-g. 


welcome the Islamic revolution and urge them on to enthu- 
siastically embrace the new and rugged creed, which with 
its complete and virile simplicity swept away at one stroke 
all those dark mists, opened the soul to new, alluring and 
tangible hopes, and promised immediate release from a 
miserable state of servitude." ^ 

But the Muslim creed was most eagerly welcomed by the 
townsfolk, the industrial classes and the artisans, whose 
occupations made them impure according to the Zoroastrian 
creed, because in the pursuance of their trade or occupations 
they defiled fire, earth or water, and who thus, outcasts in 
the eyes of the law and treated with scant consideration in 
consequence, embraced with eagerness a creed that made 
them at once free men, and equal in a brotherhood of faith. ^ 
Nor were the conversions from Zoroastrianism itself less 
striking : the fabric of the National Church had fallen with 
a crash in the general ruin of the dynasty that had before 
upheld it; having no other centre round which to rally, 
the followers of this creed would find the transition to Islam 
a simple and easy one, owing to the numerous points of 
similarity in the old creed and the new. For the Persian 
could find in the Qur'an many of the fundamental doctrines 
of his old faith, though in a rather different form : he would 
meet again Ahuramazda and Ahriman under the names of 
Allah and Iblis; the creation of the world in six periods; 
the angels and the demons; the story of the primitive 
innocence of man; the resurrection of the body and the 
doctrine of heaven and hell.^ Even in the details of daily 
worship there were similarities to be found and the followers 
of Zoroaster when they adopted Islam were enjoined by 
their new faith to pray five times a day just as they had 
been by the Avesta.* Those tribes in the north of Persia 
that had stubbornly resisted the ecclesiastical organisation 
of the state religion, on the ground that each man was a 
priest in his own household and had no need of any other, 
and beheving in a supreme being and the immortality of the 
soul, taught that a man should love his neighbour, conquer 
his passions, and strive patiently after a better hfe — such 

1 Caetani, vol. ii. p. 910. = A de Gobineau (2), pp. 306-10. 

' Dozy (i), p. 157. * Haneberg, p. 5. 


men could have needed very little persuasion to induce them 
to accept the faith of the Prophet. ^ Islam had still more 
points of contact with some of the heretical sects of Persia, 
that had come under the influence of Christianity. 

In addition to the causes above enumerated of the rapid 
spread of Islam in Persia, it should be remembered that the 
political and national sympathies of the conquered race were 
also enlisted on behalf of the new religion through the 
marriage of Husayn, the son of 'Ali with Shahbanu, one 
of the daughters of Yazdagird, the last monarch of the 
Sasanid dynasty. In the descendants of Shahbanu and 
Husayn the Persians saw the heirs of their ancient kings 
and the inheritors of their national traditions, and in this 
patriotic feeling may be found the explanation of the intense 
devotion of the Persians to the 'Alid faction and the first 
beginnings of Shi'ism as a separate sect.^ 

That this widespread conversion was not due to force or 
violence is evidenced by the toleration extended to those 
who still clung to their ancient faith. Even to the present 
day there are some small communities of fire-worshippers 
to be found in certain districts of Persia, and though these 
have in later years often had to suffer persecution,^ their 
ancestors in the early centuries of the Hi j rah enjoyed a 
remarkable degree of toleration, their fire-temples were 
respected, and we even read of a Muhammadan general (in 
the reign of al-Mu'tasim, a.d. 833-842), who ordered an 
imam and a mu'adhdhin to be flogged because they had 
destroyed a fire-temple in Sughd and built a mosque in its 
place. ^ In the tenth century, three centuries after the 
conquest of the country, fire-temples were to be found in 
'Iraq, Fars, Kirman, Sijistan, IChurasan. Jibal, Adharbayjan 
and Arran, i. e. in almost every province of Persia.^ In Fars 

^ Dozy (i), p. igi. A. de Gobineau (i), p. 55. 

* Les croyances Mazdeennes dans la religion Chiite, par Ahmed-Bey 
Agaeff. (Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists, 
vol. ii. pp. 509-11. London, 1893.) For other points of contact, see 
Goldziher : Islamisme et Parsisme. (Revue de I'Histoire des Rehgions, 
xliii. p. I. sqq.) 

' Dosabhai Framji Karaka : History of the Parsis, vol. i. pp. 56-9, 
C2-7. (London, 1884.) Nicolas de Khanikoff says that there were 12,000 
farnilies of fire- worshippers in Kirmiin at the end of the i8th century. 
(Memoire sur la partie meridionale de I'Asie centrale, p. 193. Paris, 1861.) 

* Chwolsohn, vol. i. p. 287. * Mas'iJdi, vol. iv. p. 86. 



itself there were hardly any cities or districts in which fire- 
temples and Magians were not to be found. ^ Al-Sharastani 
also (writing as late as the twelfth century), makes mention 
of a fire-temple at Isfiniya, in the neighbourhood of Baghdad 

In the face of such facts, it is surely impossible to attribute 
the decay of Zoroastrianism entirely to violent conversions 
made by the Mushm conquerors. The number of Persians 
who embraced Islam in the early days of the Arab rule was 
probably very large from the various reasons given above, 
but the late survival of their ancient faith and the occasional 
record of conversions in the course of successive centuries, 
render it probable that the acceptance of Islam was both 
peaceful and voluntary. About the close of the eighth 
century, Saman, a noble of Balkh. having received assistance 
from Asad b. 'Abd- Allah, the governor of Khurasan, 
renounced Zoroastrianism, embraced Islam and named his 
son Asad after his protector : it is from this convert that 
dynasty of the Samanids (a.d. 874-999) took its name. 
About the beginning of the ninth century, Karim b. 
Shahriyar was the first king of the Qabusiyyah dynasty who 
became a Musalman, and in 8y;^ a large number of fire- 
worshippers were converted to Islam in Daylam through the 
influence of Nasir al-Haqq Abii Muhammad. In the follow- 
ing century, about a.d. 912, Hasan b. 'All, of the 'Ahd 
dynasty on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea, who is 
said to have been a man of learning and intelligence and 
well acquainted with the religious opinions of different 
sects, invited the inhabitants of Tabaristan and Daylam, 
who were partly idolaters and partly Magians, to accept 
Islam ; many of them responded to his call, while others 
persisted in their former state of unbehef.^ In the year 
A.H. 394 (a.d. 1003-1004), a famous poet, Abu'l Hasan 
Mihyar, a native of Daylam, who had been a fire-worshipper, 
was converted to Islam by a still more famous poet, the 
Sharif al-Rida, who was his master in the poetic art.* 

It was probably about the same period that the grand- 

1 Istakhri. pp. loo, ii8. Ibn Hawqal, pp. 189-190. 

^ Kitab ai-inilal wa'1-nihal, edited by Cureton, part i. p. 198. 

* Mas'udi, vol. viii. p. 279; vol. ix. pp. 4-5. 

••Ibn Khallikan, vol. iii. p. 517. 


father of the great geographer, Ibn Hiurdadbih, was con- 
verted through the influence of one of the Barmecides, ^ 
whose ancestor had been hkewise a Magian and high priest 
of the great Fire Temple of Nawbahar at BalHi. 

Scanty as these notices of conversion are, they appear to 
have been voluntary, and the Zoroastrians would seem to 
have enjoyed on the whole toleration for the exercise of 
their rehgion up to the close of the 'Abbasid period. With 
the Mongol invasion a darker period in their history begins, 
and the miseries which the Persian Muslims themselves 
suffered seems to have generated in them a spirit of fanatical 
intolerance which exposed the Zoroastrians at times to 
cruel sufferings. 2 

In the middle of the eighth century, Persia gave birth to a 
movement that is of interest in the missionary history of 
Islam, viz. the sect of the Isma'Ilians. This is not the place 
to enter into a history of this sect or of the theological 
position taken up by its followers, or of the social and 
political factors that lent it strength, but it demands atten- 
tion here on account of the marvellous missionary organisa- 
tion whereby it was propagated. The founder of this 
organisation — which rivals that of the Jesuits for the keen 
insight into human nature it displays and the consummate 
skill with which the doctrines of the sect were accommodated 
to varying capacities and prejudices — was a certain 'Abd 
Allah b. Maymiin, who early in the ninth century infused 
new life into the Isma'ilians. He sent out his missionaries 
in all directions under various guises, very frequently as 
siifis but also as merchants and traders and the like ; they 
were instructed to be all things to all men and to win over 
different classes of men to allegiance to the grandmaster of 
their sect, by speaking to each man, as it were, in his own 
language, and accommodating their teaching to the varying 
capacities and opinions of their hearers. They captivated 
the ignorant multitude by the performance of marvels that 
were taken for miracles and by mysterious utterances that 
excited their curiosity. To the devout they appeared as 

^ Kitab al-Fihrist, ed. Fliigel, p. 149 (1. 2). 

^ For a comprehensive sketch of their condition under Muslim rule, see 
D. Menant : Les Zoroastriens de Perse. (R. du M. M. iii. pp. 193 sqq., 
p. 421 sqq.) 


models of virtue and religious zeal; to the mystics they 
revealed the hidden meaning of popular teachings and 
initiated them into various grades of occultism according 
to their capacity. Taking advantage of the eager looking- 
forward to a deliverer that was common to so many faiths 
of the time, they declared to the Musalmans the approaching 
advent of the Imam Mahdl, to the Jews that of the Messiah, 
and to the Christians that of the Comforter, but taught that 
the aspirations of each could alone be realised in the coming 
of 'AH as the great deliverer. With the Shi'ah, the Isma- 
'ilian missionary was to put himself forward as the zealous 
partisan of all the Shi'ah doctrine, was to dwell upon the 
cruelty and injustice of the Sunnis towards 'Ali and his 
sons, and liberally abuse the Sunni Kialifahs ; having thus 
prepared the way, he was to insinuate, as the necessary 
completion of the Shi'ah system of faith, the more esoteric 
doctrines of the Isma'ihan sect. In dealing with the Jew, 
he was to speak with contempt of both Christians and 
Muslims and agree with his intended convert in still looking 
forward to a promised Messiah, but gradually lead him to 
believe that this promised Messiah could be none other than 
'All, the great Messiah of the Isma'ilian system. If he 
sought to win over the Christian, he was to dwell upon the 
obstinacy of the Jews and the ignorance of the Muslims, to 
profess reverence for the chief articles of the Christian creed, 
but gently hint that they were symbolic and pointed to a 
deeper meaning, to which the Isma'ihan system alone could 
supply the key ; he was also cautiously to suggest that the 
Christians had somewhat misinterpreted the doctrine of the 
Paraclete and that it was in 'Ali that the true Paraclete 
was to be found. Similarly the Isma'ilian missionaries who 
made their way into India endeavoured to make their 
doctrines acceptable to the Hindus, by representing 'Ali 
as the promised tenth Avatar of Visnu who was to come 
from the West, i. e. (they averred) from Alamiit. They 
also wrote a Mahdi Purana and composed hymns in imita- 
tion of those of the Vamacarins or left-hand Saktas, whose 
mysticism already predisposed their minds to the acceptance 
of the esoteric doctrines of the Isma'ihans.^ 

^ Khoja Vrittant, pp. 141-8. For a further account of Isma'ilian 
missionaries in India, see chap. ix. 


By such means as these an enormous number of persons 
of different faiths were united together to push forward an 
enterprise, the real aim of which was known to very few. 
The aspirations of 'Abd Allah b, Maymun seem to have 
been entirely political, but as the means he adopted were 
religious and the one common bond — if any — that bound 
his followers together was the devout expectation of the 
coming of the Imam Mahdl, the missionary activity con- 
nected with the history of this sect deserves this brief 
mention in these pages. ^ 

The history of the spread of Islam in the countries of 
Central Asia to the north of Persia presents little in the way 
of missionary activity. When Qutaybah b. Muslim went 
to Samarqand, he found many idols there, whose worshippers 
maintained that any man who dared outrage them would 
perish; the Mushm conqueror, undeterred by such super- 
stitious fears, set fire to the idols ; whereupon a number of 
persons embraced Islam. ^ There is, however, but scanty 
record of such conversions in the early history of the 
Muslim advance into Central Asia; moreover the people 
of this country seem often to have pretended to embrace 
Islam for a time and then to have thrown off the mask 
and renounced their allegiance to the caliph as soon as 
the conquering armies were withdrawn,^ and it was not 
until Qutaybah had forcibly occupied BuWiara for the 
fourth time that he succeeded in compelling the inhabitants 
to conform to the faith of their conquerors. 

In Bukhara and Samarqand the opposition to the new 
faith was so violent and obstinate that none but those who 
had embraced Islam were allowed to carry arms, and for 
many years the Muslims dared not appear unarmed in the 
mosques or other public places, while spies had to be set to 
keep a watch on the new converts. The conquerors made 
various efforts to gain proselytes, and even tried to encourage 
attendance at the Friday prayers in the mosques by rewards 
of money, and allowed the Qur'an to be recited in Persian 
instead of in Arabic, in order that it might be intelhgible to 

1 Le Bon Silvestre De Sacy : Expose de la Religion des Druzes, tome i. 
pp. Ixvii-lxxvi, cxlviii-clxii. ^ Baladhuri, p. 421. 

* Narshaldil, p. 46, * Id. p. 47. 


The progress of Islam in Transoxania was certainly very 
slow : some of the inhabitants accepted the invitation of 
'Umar II (a.d. 717-720) to embrace Islam, ^ and large 
numbers were converted through the preaching of a certain 
Abii Sayda who commenced this mission in Samarqand in 
the reign of Hisham (724-743), ^ but it was not until the 
reign of Al-Mu'tasim (a.d. 833-842) that Islam was generally 
adopted there, ^ one of the reason probably being the more 
intimate relations established at this time with the then 
capital of the Muhammadan world, Ba gh dad, through the 
enormous numbers of Turks that had flocked in thousands 
to join the army of the caliph.* Islam having thus gained a 
footing among the Turkish tribes seems to have made but 
slow progress until the middle of the tenth century, when 
the conversion of some of their chieftains to Islam, like that 
of Clovis and other barbarian kings of Northern Europe to 
Christianity, led their clansmen to follow their example in 
a body. 

Pious legends have grown up to supply the lack of sober 
historical record of such conversions. The city of Kliiva 
reveres as its national saint a Muslim wrestler — Pahlavan — 
who was in the service of a heathen king of Ktiwarizm. The 
king of India, hearing of the fame of this Pahlavan, sent 
his own court wrestler with a challenge to the king of 
Hiwarizm. A day was fixed for the trial of strength and 
the nobles and people of Khiva were summoned to view the 
spectacle ; the vanquished man was to have his head cut 
off. On the day before, the saintly Pahlavan was praying 
in the mosque when he overheard the prayer of an old 
woman : " O God, suffer not my son to be beaten by this 
invincible Pahlavan, for I have no other child." Touched 
with compassion for the mother, Pahlavan lets the Indian 
wrestler win the day; the enraged king orders his head to 
be cut off, but at that very moment the horse on which the 
king is sitting, bolts, carrying his master straight towards 
a dangerous precipice. Pahlavan springs forward, catches 
the horse and rescues the king from a horrible death. In 
gratitude the king embraces the true faith, and the saintly 

^ Baladhnri. p. 426. ^ Tabari, ii. pp. 1507 sqq. 

* Baladhuri, p. 431. * August Miiller, vol. i. p. 520. 


wrestler, full of joy, goes away into the desert and becomes 
a hermit. 1 

A strange legend is told of the conversion of Satiiq Bughra 
Mian, the founder of the Muhammadan dynasty of the Ilik- 
Hians of Kashgar, about the middle of the tenth century. A 
prince of the Samanid house, Hiwajah Abu'1-Nasr SamanT, a 
man of great piety and humility of character, finding no scope 
for the exercise of his talent for administration, resolved to 
become a merchant, with the purpose of spreading the true 
faith in the lands of the unbelievers. Instead of trying to 
acquire a fortune by his commercial enterprises, he devoted 
all his gains to the furtherance of his proselytising efforts. 
One night the Prophet appeared to him in a dream, saying : 
" Arise, and go into Turkistan where the prince Satiiq 
Bughra Hian only awaits your coming to be converted to 
Islam." The young prince had in a similar manner been 
warned in a vision to expect the arrival of an instructor in 
the faith, and when some days later he met Abu'1-Nasr 
Samani he was prepared to accept his teaching and become 
a Musalman. This legend would appear to have been based 
on the historic fact that Islam made its way from the 
Samanid kingdom into the neighbouring country of Turkis- 
tan, and the example of the ruler seems to have been followed 
by his subjects, for in A.D. 960 as many as 200,000 tents 
of the Turks, i. e. probably the greater part of the Turkish 
population of Bughra Hian's kingdom, professed the faith of 
Islam. 2 Legend credits him with miraculous powers in his 
wars against the heathen, when a devouring flame would 
issue from his mouth and the sword that he brandished 
would become forty feet long. By the time he had reached 
the age of ninety-six, the terror of his sword is said to have 
converted the unbelievers from the banks of the Oxus in the 
south to Quraquram in the north, and just before his death 
he is said to have led his victorious army into China, and 
spread Islam as far as Turfan.^ This picturesque account of 

^ Cahun, p. 150. 

^ Ibn al-Athir, vol. viii. p. 396 (11. ig-20.) Grenard, pp. 7 sq., 42-3. 

2 Grenard, pp. 9-10. " D'une guerre d'ambition [la tradition] fait une 
guerre sainte, elle attribue a Satok Boghra Khan une conquete qui a ete 
accomplie reellement par son douzieme successeur; par une confusion 
absurde, elle donne le nom de ce dernier k I'oncle infid^le de Satok. Non 
contente de reduire deux personnages en un seul, elle prete au meme prince 


a dynastic struggle with the Buddhist kingdom of Khotan 
credits the hero with a measure of success which was not 
really achieved until the fourteenth century. How limited 
the success of Satiiq Bu gh ra Hian really was, may be judged 
from the fact that when his successors among the Ilik-Khans 
sought in 1026 to contract matrimonial alliances with 
princesses of the house of Mahmiid of Ghazna, Mahmiid 
replied that he was a Musalman, while they were unbelievers, 
and that it was not the custom to give the sisters and 
daughters of Musalmans in marriage to unbelievers, but 
that, if they would embrace Islam, the matter would be 
considered.^ A few years later, in 1041-1042, a number of 
Turks who were still heathen and living in Tibetan territory 
sought permission from Arslan Hian b. Qadr Khan to 
settle in his dominions, having heard of the justice and 
mildness of his rule ; when they arrived in the neighbour- 
hood of Balasa gh iin ^ he sent a message to them urging them 
to accept Islam ; but they refused, and as he found them to 
be peaceable and obedient subjects, he left them alone. 
There is no record of their conversion, which probabh' 
ensued in course of time ; but they can hardly be identified 
with the group of ten thousand tents of infidel Turks who 
embraced Islam in the following year, as these latter are 
expressly stated to have harried and plundered the Musal- 
mans before their conversion.^ The invasion of the Qara 
Hiitay into Turkistan * dealt a severe blow to the power of 
Islam, and as late as the thirteenth century the reports 
of European travellers show that there were still important 
groups of Buddhists, Manichaeans and Christians in these 
parts. ^ 

Of supreme importance to Islam was the conversion of 
the Saljuq Turks, but no record of their conversion remains 
beyond the statement that in a.d. 956 Saljuq migrated from 
Turkistan with his clan to the province of Bukhara, where 
he and his people enthusiastically embraced Islam. ^ This 

une marche sur Tourfan, c'est-a-dire contre les Ouigour, qui est en effet 
I'oeuvre d'un troisieme." (Id. p. 50.) ^ Raverty, p. 905. 

" This was the capital of the Kians of Turkistan during the tenth and 
eleventh centuries, but the exact site is uncertain. 

* Narshakhi, pp. 234-5. * Raverty, pp. 925-7. 

* Grenard, p. 76, e Raverty, p. 117. 


was the origin of the famous Saljiiq Turks, whose wars and 
conquests revived the fading glory of the Muhammadan 
arms and united into one empire the Mushm kingdoms of 
Western Asia. 

When at the close of the twelfth century, the Saljuq 
empire had lost all power except in Asia Minor, and when 
Muhammad Ghurl was extending his empire from Khurasan 
eastward across the north of India, there was a great revival 
of the Muslim faith among the Af^ans and their country 
was overrun by Arab preachers and converts from India, 
who set about the task of proselytising with remarkable 
energy and boldness. ^ The traditions of the Afghans 
represent Islam as having been peaceably introduced 
among them. They say that in the first century of the 
Hijrah they occupied the Ghur country to the east of 
Herat, and that Khalid b. Walid came to them there 
with the tidings of Islam and invited them to join the 
standard of the Prophet ; he returned to Muhammad 
accompanied by a deputation of six or seven representa- 
tive men of the Afghan people, with their followers, and 
these, when they went back to their own country, set 
to work to convert their fellow-tribesmen. ^ This tradition 
is, however, devoid of any historical foundation, and the 
earliest authentic record of conversion to Islam from among 
the Afghans seems to be that of a king of Kabul in the reign 
of al-Ma'miin.^ His successors, however, seem to have 
relapsed to Buddhism, for when Ya'qiab b. Layth, the 
founder of the Saffarid dynasty, extended his conquests as 
far as Kabul in 871, he found the ruler of the land to be 
an " idolater," and Kabul now became really Muhammadan 
for the first time, the Afghans probably being quite willing 
to take service in the army of so redoubtable a conqueror 
as Ya'qiib b. Layth,* but it was not until after the conquests 
of Sabaktigin and Mahmud of Ghazna that Islam became 
established throughout Afghanistan. 

Of the further history of Islam in Persia and Central Asia 
some details will be found in the following chapter. 

1 Bellew, p. 96. - Id. pp. 15-16. 

' Baladhuri, p. 402. * August Miiller, vol. ii, p. 29. 



There is no event in the history of Islam that for terror 
and desolation can be compared to the Mongol conquest. 
Like an avalanche, the hosts of Chingiz Hian swept over 
the centres of Muslim culture and civilisation, leaving 
behind them bare deserts and shapeless ruins where before 
had stood the palaces of stately cities, girt about with gardens 
and fruitful corn-land. When the Mongol army had marched 
out of the city of Herat, a miserable remnant of fort}^ persons 
crept out of their hiding-places and gazed horror-stricken 
on the ruins of their beautiful city — all that were left out 
of a population of over 100,000. In Buldiara, so famed for 
its men of piety and learning, the Mongols stabled their 
horses in the sacred precincts of the mosques and tore up 
the Qur'ans to serve as litter; those of the inhabitants who 
were not butchered were carried away into captivity and 
their city reduced to ashes. Such too was the fate of 
Samarqand, Balldi and many another city of Central Asia, 
which had been the glories of Islamic civilisation and the 
dwelling-places of holy men and the seats of sound learning 
— such too the fate of Baghdad that for centuries had been 
the capital of the 'Abbasid dynasty. 

Well might the Muhammadan historian shudder to relate 
such horrors ; when Ibn al-AthIr comes to describe the in- 
roads of the Mongols into the countries of Islam, " for many 
years," he tells us, " I shrank from giving a recital of these 
events on account of their magnitude and my abhorrence. 
Even now I come reluctant to the task, for who would deem 
it a light thing to sing the death-song of Islam and of the 
Muslims, or find it easy to tell this tale ? O that my 



mother had not given me birth ! ' Oh, would that I had 
died ere this, and been a thing forgotten, forgotten quite ! ' ^ 
Many friends have urged me and still I stood irresolute; 
but I saw that it was of no profit to forego the task and so 
I thus resume. I shall have to describe events so terrible 
and calamities so stupendous that neither day nor night 
have ever brought forth the like; they fell on all nations, 
but on the Muslims more than all ; and were one to say that 
since God created Adam the world has not seen the like, 
he would but tell the truth, for history has nothing to relate 
that at all approaches it. Among the greatest calamities 
in history is the slaughter that Nebuchadnezzar wrought 
among the children of Israel and his destruction of the 
Temple ; but what is Jerusalem in comparison to the 
countries that these accursed ones laid waste, every town 
of which was far greater than Jerusalem, and what were 
the children of Israel in comparison to those they slew, since 
the inhabitants of one of the cities they destroyed were 
greater in numbers than all the children of Israel ? Let 
us hope that the world may never see the like again." ^ 
But Islam was to rise again from the ashes of its former 
grandeur and through its preachers win over these savage 
conquerors to the acceptance of the faith. This was a 
task for the missionary energies of Islam that was rendered 
more difficult from the fact that there were two powerful 
competitors in the field. The spectacle of Buddhism, 
Christianity and Islam emulously striving to win the 
allegiance of the fierce conquerors that had set their feet 
on the necks of adherents of these great missionary rehgions, 
is one that is without parallel in the history of the world. 

Before entering on a recital of this struggle, it will be 
well in order to the comprehension of what is to follow 
briefly to glance at the partition of the Mongol empire 
after the death of Chingiz Mian, when it was split up into 
four sections and divided among his sons. His third son, 
Ogotay, succeeded his father as Kiaqan and received as 
his share the eastern portion of the empire, in which Qiibllay 
afterwards included the whole of China. Chaghatay the 
second son took the middle kingdom. Batii, the son of 

1 Qur'an, xix. 23. ^ Ibn al-AtJiir, vol. xii. pp. 233-4. 


his first-born Juji, ruled the western portion as Kian of 
the Golden Horde ; Tuliiy the fourth son took Persia, to 
which Hiilagu, who founded the dynasty of the Illdians. 
added a great part of Asia Minor. 

The primitive religion of the Mongols was Shamanism, 
which while recognising a supreme God, offered no prayers 
to Him, but worshipped a number of inferior divinities, 
especially the evil spirits whose powers for harm had to be 
deprecated by means of sacrifices, and the souls of ancestors 
who were considered to exercise an influence on the lives 
of their descendants. To propitiate these powers of the 
heaven and of the lower world, recourse was had to the 
Shamans, wizards or medicine-men, who were credited with 
possessing mysterious influence over the elements and the 
spirits of the departed. Their religion was not one that 
was calculated to withstand long the efforts of a prosely- 
tising faith, possessed of a systematic theology capable 
of satisfying the demands of the reason and an organised 
body of religious teachers, when once the Mongols had been 
brought into contact with civilised races, had responded 
to their civilising influences and begun to pass out of their 
nomadic barbarism. It so happened that the civilised 
races with which the conquest of the Mongols brought them 
in contact comprised large numbers of Buddhists, Christians 
and Muhammadans, and the adherents of these three great 
missionary faiths entered into rivalry with one another for 
the conversion of their conquerors. When not carried away 
by the furious madness for destruction and insult that 
usually characterised their campaigns,the Shamanist Mongols 
showed themselves remarkably tolerant of other religions, 
whose priests were exempted from taxation and allowed 
perfect freedom of worship. Buddhist priests held con- 
troversies with the Shamans in the presence of Chinglz 
Hian ; and at the courts of Mangij Mian and Qiabilay the 
Buddhist and Christian priests and the Muslim Imams alike 
enjoyed the patronage of the Mongol prince.^ In the 
reign of the latter monarch the Mongols in China began 
to yield to the powerful influences of the surrounding 
Buddhism, and by the beginning of the fourteenth century 

1 William of Rubruck, pp. 182, 191. C. d'Ohsson, tome ii. p. 488. 


the Buddhist faith seems to have gained a complete ascend- 
ancy over them.i It was the Lamas of Tibet who showed 
themselves most zealous in this work of conversion, and 
the people of Mongoha to the present day cling to the same 
faith, as do the Kalmuks who migrated to Russia in the 
seventeenth century. 

Although Buddhism made itself finally supreme in the 
eastern part of the empire, at first the influence of the 
Christian Church was by no means inconsiderable and great 
hopes were entertained of the conversion of the Mongols. 
The Nestorian missionaries in the seventh century had 
carried the knowledge of the Christian faith from west to 
east across Asia as far as the north of China, and scattered 
communities were still to be found in the thirteenth century. 
The famous Prester John, around whose name cluster so 
many legends of the Middle Ages, is supposed to have been 
the chief of the Karaits, a Christian Tartar tribe living to 
the south of Lake Baikal. When this tribe was conquered 
by Chinglz Hian, he married one of the daughters of the 
then chief of the tribe, while his son Ogotay took a wife 
from the same family. Ogotay's son, Kuyiik, although he 
did not himself become a Christian, showed great favour 
towards this faith, to which his chief minister and one of 
his secretaries belonged. The Nestorian priests were held 
in high favour at his court and he received an embassy 
from Pope Innocent IV. ^ The Christian powers both of 
the East and the West looked to the Mongols to assist them 
in their wars against the Musalmans. It was Hayton, 
the Christian King of Armenia, who was mainly instru- 
mental in persuading Mangii Hian to despatch the expedi- 
tion that sacked Baghdad under the leadership of Hulagu,^ 
the influence of whose Christian wife led him to show much 
favour to the Christians, and especially to the Nestorians. 
Many of the Mongols who occupied the countries of Armenia 
and Georgia were converted by the Christians of these 
countries and received baptism.* The marvellous tales 
of the greatness and magnificence of Prester John, that 
fired the imagination of mediaeval Europe, had given rise 

1 De Guigncs, tome iii. pp. 200, 203. - Id. vol. iii. p. 115. 

3 Id. p. 125. Cahun, p. 391. * Klaproth, p. 204. 


to a belief that the Mongols were Christians — a behef which 
was further strengthened by the false reports that reached 
Europe of the conversion of various Mongol princes and 
their zeal for the Christian cause. It was under this delusion 
that St. Louis sent an ambassador, William of Rubruck, 
to exhort the great Khaqan to persevere in his supposed 
efforts for the spread of the Christian faith. But these 
reports were soon discovered to be without any foundation 
in fact, though Wilham of Rubruck found that the Christian 
religion was freely tolerated at the court of Mangu Hian, 
and the adhesion of some few Mongols to this faith made 
the Christian priests hopeful of still further conquests. 
But so long as Latins, Greeks, Nestorians and Armenians 
carried their theological differences into the ver}/ midst 
of the Mongol camp, there was very little hope of much 
progress being made, and it is probably this very want of 
union among the preachers of Christianity that caused their 
efforts to meet with so little success among the Mongols ; 
so that while they were fighting among one another. 
Buddhism and Islam were gaining a firm footing for them- 
selves. The haughty pretensions of the Roman Pontiff 
soon caused the proud conquerors of half the world to 
withdraw from his emissaries what little favour they might 
at first have been inclined to show, and many other circum- 
stances contributed to the failure of the Roman mission. ^ 

As for the Nestorians, who had been first in the field, 
they appear to have been too degraded and apathetic to 
take much advantage of their opportunities. Of the 
Nestorians in China, William of Rubruck ^ says that they 
were very ignorant and could not even understand their 
service books, which were written in Syriac. He accuses 
them of drunkenness, polygamy and covetousness, and 
makes an unfavourable comparison between their lives 
and those of the Buddhist priests. Their bishop paid 
them very rare visits — sometimes only once in fifty years : 

* C. d'Ohsson, tome ii. pp. 22G-7. Cahun, p. 40S sq. 

* Of this writer Yule says, " He gives an unfavourable account of 
the literature and morals of their clergy, wliich deserves more weight than 
such statements regarding those looked upon as schismatics generally do ; 
for the narrative of Rubruquis gives one the impression of being written 
by a thoroughly honest and intelligent person." (Cathaj^ and the Way 
Thither, vol. i. p. xcviii.) 


on such occasions he would ordain all the male children, 
even the babies in their cradles. The priests were eaten 
up with simony, made a traffic of the sacred rites of their 
Church and concerned themselves more with money-making 
than with the propagation of the faith. ^ 

In the western parts of the Mongol empire, where the 
Christians looked to the newl3^-risen power to help them in 
their wars with the Musalmans and to secure for them 
the possession of the Holy Land, the alliance between the 
Christians and the llkhans of Persia was short-lived, as 
the victories of Baybars, the Mamliik Sultan of Egypt 
( 1 260-1 277) and his alliance with Baraka Hian, gave the 
ilkhans quite enough to do to look after their own interests. 
The excesses that the Christians of Damascus and other 
cities committed during the brief period in which they 
enjoyed the favour of this Mongol dynasty of Persia, did 
much to discredit the Christian name in Western Asia.^ 

In the course of the struggle, the adherents of either 
faith were at times guilty of much brutality. One example 
may be taken from the middle of the thirteenth century 
as told by al-Juzjani, who claims to have heard the 
story, while in Delhi, from the lips of a certain Sayyid 
Ashraf al-Dln who had come there from Samarqand, 
"The eminent Sayyid thus related, that one of the Chris- 
tians of Samarqand attained unto the felicity of Islam, 
and the Musalmans of Samarqand, who are staunch in 
their faith, paid him great honour and reverence, and 
conferred great benefits upon him. Unexpectedly, one of 
the haughty Mongol infidels of China, who possessed power 
and influence, and the inclinations of which accursed one 
were towards the Christian faith, arrived at Samarqand. 
The Christians of that city repaired to that Mongol, and 
complained saying : ' The Musalmans are enjoining our 
children to turn away from the Christian faith and from 
serving Jesus — on whom be peace — and calling upon them 
to follow the religion of Mustafa ^ — on whom be peace — 
and, in case that gate becomes unclosed, the whole of our 
dependents will turn away from the Christian faith. By 

^ William of Rubruck, pp. 158-9. 

^ Maqrizi (2), tome i. i'"= partie, pp. 98, 106. 

^ The Chosen One — Muhammad. 


thy power and authority devise a settlement of our case.' 
The Mongol commanded that the youth, who had turned 
Musalman, should be produced, and they tried with blandish- 
ment and kindness, and money and wealth to induce the 
newly-converted Musalman to recant, but he refused to 
recant, and put not off from his heart and spirit that 
garment of freshness — the Muslim faith. The Mongol 
ruler then turned over a leaf in his temper, and began 
to speak of severe punishment ; and every punishment, 
which it was in his power to inflict, or his severity to 
devise, he inflicted upon the youth, who, from his great 
zeal for the faith of Islam, did not recant, and did not in 
any way cast away from his hand the sweet draught of 
religion through the blow of infidel perverseness. As the 
youth continued firm in the true faith, and paid no heed 
to the promises and threats of that depraved company, 
the accursed Mongol commanded that they should bring 
the youth to public punishment ; and he departed from the 
world in the felicity of religion — may God reward and 
requite him ! — and the Musalman community in Samar- 
qand were overcome with despondency and consternation 
in consequence. A petition was got up, and was attested 
with the testimony of the chief men and credible persons 
of the Musalman religion dwelling at Samarqand, and we 
proceeded with that petition to the camp of Baraka Khan, 
and presented to him an account of the proceedings and 
disposition of the Christians of that city. Zeal for the 
Muslim religion was manifested in the mind of that monarch 
of exemplary faith, and the defence of the truth became 
predominant in his disposition. After some days, he showed 
honour to this Sayyid, appointed a body of Turks and 
confidential persons among the chief Musalmans, and 
commanded that they should slaughter the Christian com- 
pany who had committed that dire oppression, and despatch 
them to hell. When that mandate had been obtained, it 
was preserved until that wretched sect had assembled in 
the church, then they seized them all together, and de- 
spatched the whole of them to hell, and reduced the church 
again to bricks." ^ 

^ Juzjani, pp. 44S-50. Raverty, pp. 12S8-90. 


For Islam to enter into competition with such powerful 
rivals as Buddhism and Christianity were at the outset 
of the period of Mongol rule, must have appeared a well- 
nigh hopeless undertaking. For the MusHms had suffered 
more from the storm of the Mongol invasions than the 
others. Those cities that had hitherto been the rallying 
points of spiritual organisation and learning for Islam in 
Asia, had been for the most part laid in ashes : the theologians 
and pious doctors of the faith, either slain or carried away 
into captivity,! Among the Mongol rulers — usually so 
tolerant towards all religions — there were some who ex- 
hibited varying degrees of hatred towards the Muslim faith. 
Chingiz Hian ordered all those who killed animals in the 
Muhammadan fashion to be put to death, and this ordinance 
was revived by Qubilay, who by offering rewards to informers 
set on foot a sharp persecution that lasted for seven years, 
as many poor persons took advantage of this ready means 
of gaining wealth, and slaves accused their masters in order 
to gain their freedom. ^ During the reign of Kuyuk (1246- 
1248), who left the conduct of affairs entirely to his two 
Christian ministers and whose court was filled with Christian 
monks, the Muhammadans were made to suffer great 

A contemporary historian, al-Juzjani, gives the following 
account of the kind of treatment to which a Muhammadan 
theologian might be exposed at the court of Kuyiik. 
" Trustworthy persons have related that Kuyiik was 
constantly being incited by the Buddhist priests to acts 
of oppression towards the Musalmans and the persecution 
of the faithful. There was an Imam in that country, one 
of the men of learning among the Muslims . . . named 
Niir-al-Din, al-Kiwarazmi. A number of Christian laymen 
and priests and a band of idol-worshipping Buddhist priests 
made a request to Kuyiik, asking him to summon that 

\ So notoriously brutal was the treatment they received that even the 
Chinese showmen in their exhibitions of shadow figures exultingly brought 
forward the figure of an old man with a white beard dragged by the neck 
at the tail of a horse, as showing how the Mongol horsemen behaved towards 
the Musalmans. (Howorth, vol. i. p. 159.) 

"■ Raverty, p. 1146. Howorth, vol. i. pp. 112, 273. This edict was only 
withdrawn when it was found that it prevented Muhammadan merchants 
from visiting the court and that trade suffered in consequence. 

* Howorth, vol. i. p. 165. 



Imam of the Musalmans that they might hold a controversy 
with him and get him to prove the superiority of the faith 
of Muhammad and his prophetic mission — otherwise, he 
should be put to death. The Hian agreed, the Imam 
was sent for, and a discussion ensued upon the claim of 
Muhammad to be a prophet and the manner of his life as 
compared with that of other prophets. At length, as the 
arguments of those accursed ones were weak and devoid 
of the force of truth, they withdrew their hand from con- 
tradiction and drew the mark of oppression and outrage 
on the pages of the business and asked Kuyuk Hian to 
tell the Imam to perform two genuflexions in prayer, 
according to the rites and ordinances of the Muhammadan 
law, in order that his unbecoming movements in the perform- 
ance of this act of worship might become manifest to them 
and to the Hi an." Kuyiik gave the order accordingly, 
and the Imam and another Musalman who was with him 
performed the ritual of the prayer according to the pre- 
scribed forms. " When the godly Imam and the other 
Musalman who was with him, had placed their foreheads 
on the ground in the act of prostration, some infidels whom 
Kuyiik had summoned, greatly annoyed them and knocked 
their heads with force upon the ground, and committed 
other abominable acts against them. But that godly 
Imam endured all this oppression and annoyance and 
performed all the required forms and ceremonies of the 
prayer and in no way curtailed it. When he had repeated 
the salutation, he lifted up his face towards heaven and 
observed the form of ' Invoke your Lord with humiHty 
and in secret,' and having asked permission to depart, he 
returned unto his own house." ^ 

Arghun (1284-1291) the fourth Illdian persecuted the 
Musalmans and took away from them all posts in the 
departments of justice and finance, and forbade them to 
appear at his court. ^ 

In spite of all difficulties, however, the Mongols and the 
savage tribes that followed in their wake^ were at length 

^ Juzjani, pp. 404-5. Raverty, p. 1160 sqq. 
* De Guignes, vol. iii. p. 265. 

' In the thirteenth century, three-fourths of the Mongol hosts were 
Turks. (Cahun, p. 279.) 


brought to submit to the faith of those MusHm peoples 
whom they had crushed beneath their feet. Unfortunately 
history sheds little light on the progress of this missionary 
movement and only a few details relating to the conversion 
of the more prominent converts have been preserved to us. 
Scattered up and down throughout the length and breadth 
of the Mongol empire, there must have been many of the 
followers of the Prophet who laboured successfully and 
unknown, to win unbelievers to the faith. In the reign 
of Ogotay (1229-1241), we read of a certain Buddhist 
governor of Persia, named Kurguz, who in his later years 
abjured Buddhism and became a Musalman.^ In the 
reign of Timur Hian (1323-1328), Ananda, a grandson of 
Qubilay and viceroy of Kan-Su, was a zealous Musalman 
and had converted a great many persons in Tangut and 
won over a large number of the troops under his command 
to the same faith. He was summoned to court and efforts 
were made to induce him to conform to Buddhism, and on 
his refusing to abandon his faith he was cast into prison. 
But he was shortly after set at liberty, for fear of an in- 
surrection among the inhabitants of Tangut, who were 
much attached to him.^ 

The author of the MuntaWiab al-Tawarildi asserts that 
Ananda built four mosques in Hianbaligh (the modern 
Peking), which provided accommodation for 1,000,000 
men at the time of the Friday prayer; but no credence 
can be given to this or to his other statements regarding 
the spread of Islam in China, in view of the fact that he 
represents Ananda to have been the successor of Timiir 
Khan on the imperial throne and gives an entirely fictitious 
account of his descendants, several of whom are represented 
as having professed Islam, though none of the five had any 
existence except in the imagination of the writer.^ 

The first Mongol ruling prince who professed Islam was 
Baraka Khan, who was chief of the Golden Horde from 
1256 to 1267.^ According to Abu'l-Ghazi he was converted 

^ C. d'Ohsson, vol. iii. p. 121. 

* Rashid al-Din, pp. 600-2. ^ Blochet, pp. 74-7. 

* It is of interest to note that Najm al-Din Mukhtar al-Zahidi in 1260 
compiled for Baraka Wian a treatise which gave the proofs of the divine 
mission of the Prophet, a refutation of those who denied it, and an account 


after he had come to the throne. He is said one day to 
have fallen in with a caravan coming from Bukhara, and 
taking two of the merchants aside, to have questioned them 
on the doctrines of Islam, and they expounded to him their 
faith so persuasively that he became converted in all sin- 
cerity. He first revealed his change of faith to his youngest 
brother, whom he induced to follow his example, and then 
made open profession of his new belief. ^ But, according 
to al-J(izjam, Baraka Khan was brought up as a Musalman 
from infancy, and, as soon as he was old enough to learn, 
was taught the Qur'an by one of the 'Ulama of the city of 
Khujand.2 The same author (who compiled his history 
during the lifetime of Baraka Hian), states that the whole 
of his army was Musalman. " Trustworthy persons have 
also related that, throughout his whole army, it is the 
etiquette for every horseman to have a prayer-carpet with 
him, so that, when the time for prayer arrives, they may 
occupy themselves in their devotions. Not a person in 
his whole army takes any intoxicating drink whatever; 
and great 'Ulama, consisting of commentators, traditionists, 
jurists, and disputants, are in his society. He has a great 
number of religious books, and most of his receptions and 
debates are with 'Ulama. In his place of audience debates 
on ecclesiastical law constantly take place; and, in his 
faith, as a Musalman, he is exceedingly strict and orthodox."^ 
Baraka Khan entered into a close alliance with the Mamliik 
Sultan of Egypt, Rukn al-Din Baybars. The initiative 
came from the latter, who had given a hospitable reception 
to a body of troops, two hundred in number, belonging to 
the Golden Horde; these men, observing the growing 
enmity between their Hian and Hulagii, the conqueror of 
Bagdad, in whose army they were serving, took flight into 
Syria, whence they were honourably conducted to Cairo 
to the court of Baybars, who persuaded them to embrace 
Islam.* Baybars himself was at war with Hiilagii, whom 
he had recently defeated and driven out of Syria. He sent 

of the controversies between Christians and Mushms. (Steinschneider, 
pp. 63-4.) ^ Abu'l-Ghazi. tome ii. p. 181. 

* Juzjanl, p. 447. Raverty, pp. 1283-4. 
^ Juzjani, p. 447. Raverty, pp. 1285-6. 

* Maqrizi (2), tome i. pp. 180-1, 187. 


two of the Mongol fugitives, with some other envoys, to 
bear a letter to Baraka Khan. On their return these 
envoys reported that each princess and amir at the court 
of Baraka Khan had an imam and a mu'a dhdh in. and the 
children were taught the Qur'an in the schools. ^ These 
friendly relations between Baybars and Baraka Khan 
brought many of the Mongols of the Golden Horde 
into Egypt, where they were prevailed upon to become 

In Persia, where Hiilagii founded the dynasty of the 
Ilkhans. the progress of Islam among the Mongols was 
much slower. In order to strengthen himself against the 
attacks of Baraka j^sn and the Sultan of Egypt, Hiilagii 
accepted the alliance of the Christian powers of the East, 
such as the king of Armenia and the Crusaders. His 
favourite wife was a Christian and favourably disposed the 
mind of her husband towards her co-religionists, and his 
son Abaqa Kian married the daughter of the Emperor of 
Constantinople. Though Abaqa Hian did not himself 
become a Christian, his court was filled with Christian 
priests, and he sent envoys to several of the princes of 
Europe — St. Louis of France, King Charles of Sicily and 
King James of Aragon — to solicit their alhance against the 
Muhammadans; to the same end also, an embassy of 
sixteen Mongols was sent to the Council of Lyons in 1274, 
where the spokesman of this embassy embraced Christianity 
and was baptised with some of his companions. Great 
hopes were entertained of the conversion of Abaqa, but 
they proved fruitless. His brother Takiidar,^ who suc- 
ceeded him, was the first of the IlWians who embraced 
Islam. He had been brought up as a Christian, for (as a 
contemporary Christian writer * tells us), " he was baptised 
when young and called by the name of Nicholas. But 
when he was grown up, through his intercourse with Saracens 
of whom he was very fond, he became a base Saracen, 
and, renouncing the Christian faith, wished to be called 
Muhammad Hian, and strove with all his might that the 

^ Maqrizi (2), tome i. p. 215. * Id. p. 222. 

' Wassaf calls him Nikudar before, and Ahmad after, his conversion. 

* Hayton. (Ramusio, tome ii. p. 60, c.) 


Tartars should be converted to the faith and sect of Muham- 
mad, and when they proved obstinate, not daring to force 
them, he brought about their conversion by giving them 
honours and favours and gifts, so that in his time many 
Tartars were converted to the faith of the Saracens." This 
prince sent the news of his conversion to the Sultan of 
Egypt in the following letter : — " By the power of God 
Almighty, the mandate of Ahmad to the Sultan of Eg3^pt. 
God Almighty (praised be His name !) by His grace preventing 
us and by the light of His guidance, hath guided us in our 
early youth and vigour into the true path of the know- 
ledge of His deity and the confession of His unity, to bear 
witness that Muhammad (on whom rest the highest bless- 
ings !) is the Prophet of God, and to reverence His saints 
and His pious servants. ' Whom God shall please to guide, 
that man's breast will He open to Islam.' ^ We ceased 
not to incline our heart to the promotion of the faith and 
the improvement of the condition of Islam and the Muslims, 
up to the time when the succession to the empire came to 
us from our illustrious father and brother, and God spread 
over us the glory of His grace and kindness, so that in the 
abundance of His favours our hopes were realised, and He 
revealed to us the bride of the kingdom, and she was brought 
forth to us a noble spouse. A Qiiriltay or general assembly 
was convened, wherein our brothers, our sons, great nobles, 
generals of the army and captains of the forces, met to 
hold council ; and they were all agreed on carrying out the 
order of our elder brother, viz. to summon here a vast 
levy of our troops whose numbers would make the earth, 
despite its vastness, appear too narrow, whose fury and 
fierce onset would fill the hearts of men with fear, being 
animated with a courage before which the mountain peaks 
bow down, and a firm purpose that makes the hardest 
rocks grow soft. We reflected on this their resolution 
which expressed the wish of all, and we concluded that it 
ran counter to the aim we had in view — to promote the 
common weal, i. e. to strengthen the ordinance of Islam ; 
never, as far as lies in our power, to issue any order that will 
not tend to prevent bloodshed, remove the ills of men, 

1 Qur'an, vi. 125. 


and cause the breeze of peace and prosperity to blow on 
all lands, and the kings of other countries to rest upon 
the couch of affection and benevolence, whereby the com- 
mands of God will be honoured and mercy be shown to 
the people of God. Herein, God inspired us to quench 
this fire and put an end to these terrible calamities, and 
make known to those who advanced this proposal (of a 
levy) what it is that God has put into our hearts to do, 
namely, to employ all possible means for the healing of all 
the sickness of the world, and putting off what should only 
be appealed to as the last remedy. For we desire not to 
hasten to appeal to arms, until we have first declared the 
right path, and will permit it only after setting forth the 
truth and establishing it with proofs. Our resolve to carry 
out whatever appears to us good and advantageous has 
been strengthened by the counsels of the Shayldi al-Islam, 
the model of divines, who has given us much assistance in 
religious matters. We have appointed our chief justice, 
Qutb al-Din and the Atabak, Baha al-Din, both trustworthy 
persons of this flourishing kingdom, to make known to you 
our course of action and bear witness to our good intentions 
for the common weal of the Mushms ; and to make it known 
that God has enlightened us, and that Islam annuls all 
that has gone before it, and that God Almighty has put 
it into our hearts to follow the truth and those who practice 
it. ... If some convincing proof be required, let men 
observe our actions. By the grace of God, we have raised 
aloft the standards of the faith, and borne witness to it in 
all our orders and our practice, so that the ordinances of 
the law of Muhammad may be brought to the fore and 
firmly established in accordance with the principles of 
justice laid down by Ahmad. Whereby we have filled the 
hearts of the people with joy, have granted free pardon 
to all offenders, and shown them indulgences, saying, ' May 
God pardon the past ! ' We have reformed all matters 
concerning the pious endowments of Mushms given for 
mosques, colleges, charitable institutions, and the rebuilding 
of caravanserais ; we have restored their incomes to those 
to whom they were due according to the terms laid down 
by the donors. . . . We have ordered the pilgrims to be 


treated with respect, provision to be made for their caravans 
and for securing their safety on the pilgrim routes ; we have 
given perfect freedom to merchants, travelhng from one 
country to another, that they may go wherever they please ; 
and we have strictly prohibited our soldiers and police 
from interfering with them in their comings or goings.' 
He seeks the alhance of the Sultan of Egypt " so that these 
countries and cities may again be populated, these terrible 
calamities be put down, the sword be returned to the 
scabbard ; that all peoples may dwell in peace and quietness, 
and the necks of the Mushms be freed from the ills of 
humiliation and disgrace." ^ 

To the student of the history of the Mongols it is a relief 
to pass from the recital of nameless horrors and continual 
bloodshed to a document emanating from a Mongol prince 
and giving expression to such humane and benevolent 
sentiments, which sound strange indeed coming from such 

This conversion of their chief and the persecutions that 
he inflicted on the Christians gave great offence to the 
Mongols, who, although not Christians themselves, had been 
long accustomed to intercourse with the Christians, and 
they denounced their chief to Qiibilay Hian as one who 
had abandoned the footsteps of his forefathers. A revolt 
broke out against him, headed by his nephew Arghun, who 
compassed his death and succeeded him on the throne. 
During his brief reign (1284-1291), the Christians were 
once more restored to favour, while the Musalmans had to 
suffer persecution in their turn, were dismissed from their 
posts and driven away from the court. ^ 

The successors of Takudar were all heathen, until, in 
1295, Ghazan, the seventh and greatest of the Illdians, 
became a Musalman and made Islam the ruling religion 
of Persia. During the last three reigns the Christians had 
entertained great hopes of the conversion of the ruling family 
of Persia, who had shown them such distinguished favour 
and entrusted them with so many important offices of 
state. His immediate predecessor, the insurgent Baydii 
Hian, who occupied the throne for a few months only in 

^ Was§af, pp. 231-4. 2 De Guignes, vol. iii. pp. 263-5. 


1295, carried his predilection for Christianity so far as to 
try to put a stop to the spread of Islam among the Mongols, 
and accordingly forbade any one to preach the doctrines 
of this faith among them.^ 

Qiazan himself before his conversion had been brought 
up as a Buddhist and had erected several Buddhist temples 
in Khurasan, and took great pleasure in the company of 
the priests of this faith, who had come into Persia in large 
numbers since the establishment of the Mongol supremacy 
over that country. ^ He appears to have been naturally 
of a religious turn of mind, for he studied the creeds of the 
different religions of his time, and used to hold discussions 
with the learned doctors of each faith. ^ Rashid al-Din, 
his learned minister and the historian of his reign, maintained 
the genuineness of his conversion to Islam, the religious 
observances of which he zealously kept throughout his 
whole reign, though his contemporaries (and later writers 
have often re-echoed the imputation) represented him as 
having only yielded to the solicitations of some Amirs and 
Shayldis.* " Besides, what interested motive," asks his 
apologist, " could have led so powerful a sovereign to change 
his faith : much less, a prince whose pagan ancestors had 
conquered the world ? " His conversion, however, certainly 
won over to his side the hearts of the Persians, when he 
was contending with Baydii for the throne, and the Muham- 
madan Mongols in the army of his rival deserted to support 
the cause of their co-religionist. These were the very 
considerations that were urged upon Qiazan by Nawruz, a 
Muhammadan Amir who had espoused his cause and who 
hailed him as the prince who, according to a prophecy, 
was to appear about this time to protect the faith of Islam 
and restore it to its former splendour : if he embraced Islam, 
he could become the ruler of Persia : the Musalmans, 
delivered from the grievous yoke of the Pagan Mongols, 
would espouse his cause, and God, recognising in him the 
saviour of the true faith from utter destruction, would bless 
his arms with victory.^ After hesitating a little, Ghazan 

^ C. d'Ohsson, tome iv. pp. 141-2. ^ Id. ib. p. 148. 

' Id. ib. p. 365. * Id. ib. pp. 148, 354. Cahun, p. 434. 

" C. d'Ohsson, toms iv. pp. 128, 132. 


made a public profession of the faith, and his officers and 
soldiers followed his example : he distributed alms to men 
of piety and learning and visited the mosques and tombs 
of the saints and in every way showed himself an exemplary 
Muslim ruler. His brother, Uljaytii, who succeeded him 
in 1304, under the name of Muhammad Khudabandah. 
had been brought up as a Christian in the faith of his mother 
and had been baptised under the name of Nicholas, but 
after his mother's death, while he was still a young man, 
he became a convert to Islam through the persuasions of 
his wife.i Ibn Batiitah says that his example exercised 
a great influence on the Mongols. ^ From this time forward 
Islam became the paramount faith in the kingdom of the 

The details that we possess of the progress of Islam in 
the Middle Kingdom, which fell to the lot of Cha gh atay and 
his descendants, are still more meagre. Several of the 
princes of this line had a Muhammadan minister in their 
service, but they showed themselves unsympathetic to the 
faith of Islam. Chaghatay harassed his Muhammadan 
subjects by regulations that restricted their ritual observ- 
ances in respect of the killing of animals for food and of 
ceremonial washings. Al-Jiizjani sa3^s that he was the 
bitterest enemy of the Muslims among all the Mongol 
rulers and did not wish any one to utter the word Musalman 
before him except with evil purpose.^ Or gh ana. the wife 
of his grandson and successor, Qara-Hiilagii, brought up 

^ Hammer-Purgstall : Geschichte der Ilchanen, vol. ii. p. 182. It is 
not improbable that the captive Muslim women took a considerable part 
in the conversion of the Mongols to Islam. Women appear to have occu- 
pied an honoured position among the Mongols, and many instances might 
be given of their having taken a prominent part in political affairs, just 
as already several cases have been mentioned of the influence they exercised 
on their husbands in religious matters. William of Rubruck tells us 
how he found the influence of a Muslim wife an obstacle in the way 
of his proselytising labours : " On the day of Pentecost a certain Saracen 
came to us, and while in conversation with us, we began expounding the 
faith, and when he heard of the blessings of God to man in the incar- 
nation, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, and the washing 
away of sins in baptism, he said he wished to be baptised ; but while we 
were making ready to baptise him, he suddenly jumped on his horse 
saying he had to go home to consult with his wife. And the next day 
talking with us he said he could not possibly venture to receive baptism, 
for then he could not drink cosmos" (mare's milk). (Rubruck, pp. 90-1.) 

* Ibn Batiitah, vol. ii. p. 57. 

' Juzjani, pp. 381, 397. Raverty, pp. 11 10, 1 145-6. 


her son as a Musalman, and under the name of Mubarak 
Shah he came forward in 1264 as one of the claimants of 
the disputed succession to the Chaghatay Hianate ; but he 
was soon driven from the throne by his cousin Buraq Khan, 
and appears to have exercised no influence on behalf of 
his faith, indeed judging from their names it would not 
appear that any of his own children even adopted the 
religion of their father.^ Buraq Hian is said to have " had 
the blessedness of receiving the light of the faith " a few 
days before his death in 1270, and to have taken the name 
of Sultan Ghiyath al-Din,^ but he was buried according 
to the ancient funeral rites of the Mongols, and not as a 
Musalman, and those who had been converted during his 
reign relapsed into their former heathenism. It was not 
until the next century that the conversion of Tarmashirin 
Hian, about 1326, caused Islam to be at all generally 
adopted by the Cha^atay Mongols, who when they followed 
the example of their chief this time remained true to their 
new faith. But even now the ascendancy of Islam was not 
assured, for Biizun who was Khan in the next decade —  
the chronology is uncertain — drove Tarmashirin from his 
throne, and persecuted the Muslims,^ and it was not until 
some years later that we hear of the first Musalman king 
of Kashgar, which the break-up of the Cha^atay dynasty 
had erected into a separate kingdom. This prince, Tiiqluq 
Timiir Khan (1347-1363), is said to have owed his conversion 
to a holy man from BuWiara, by name Shaykh Jamal 
al-DTn. This Shaykh. in company with a number of travel- 
lers, had unwittingly trespassed on the game-preserves of 
the prince, who ordered them to be bound hand and foot 
and brought before him. In reply to his angry question, 
how they had dared interfere with his hunting, the Shaykh 
pleaded that they were strangers and were quite unaware 
that they were trespassing on forbidden ground. Learning 
that they were Persians, the prince said that a dog was 
worth more than a Persian. " Yes," replied the ShayMi, 
" if we had not the true faith, we should indeed be worse 
than the dogs." Struck with his reply, the Hian ordered 

^ Rashid al-Din, pp. 173-4, ^^^- * Abu'l-Ghazi. tome ii. p. 159. 

' Ibn Batutah, tome iii. p. 47. 


this bold Persian to be brought before him on his return 
from hunting, and taking him aside asked him to explain 
what he meant by these words and what was " faith." The 
ShayMi then set before him the doctrines of Islam with 
such fervour and zeal that the heart of the Khan that 
before had been hard as a stone was melted like wax, and 
so terrible a picture did the holy man draw of the state of 
unbelief, that the prince was convinced of the blindness of 
his own errors, but said, " Were I now to make profession 
of the faith of Islam, I should not be able to lead my subjects 
into the true path. But bear with me a httle; and when 
I have entered into the possession of the kingdom of my 
forefathers, come to me again." For the empire of Cha^a- 
tay had by this time been broken up into a number of petty 
princedoms, and it was many years before Tiiqluq Timiir 
succeeded in uniting under his sway the whole empire as 
before. Meanwhile ShayMi Jamal al-Din had returned to 
his home, where he fell dangerously ill : when at the point 
of death, he said to his son Rashid al-DIn, " Tiiqluq Timiir 
will one day become a great monarch; fail not to go and 
salute him in my name and fearlessly remind him of the 
promise he made me." Some years later, when Tiiqluq 
Timiir had re-won the empire of his fathers, Rashid al-DIn 
made his way to the camp of the Hian to fulfil the last 
wishes of his father, but in spite of all his efforts he could 
not gain an audience of the Sian. At length he devised 
the following expedient : one day in the early morning, he 
began to chant the call to prayers, close to the Khan's 
tent. Enraged at having his slumbers disturbed in this 
way, the prince ordered him to be brought into his presence, 
whereupon Rashid al-DIn delivered his father's message. 
Tiiqluq Hian was not unmindful of his promise, and said : 
" Ever since I ascended the throne I have had it on my mind 
that I made that promise, but the person to whom I gave 
the pledge never came. Now you are welcome," He then 
repeated the profession of faith and became a Muslim. 
" On that morn the sun of bounty rose out of the east of 
divine favour and effaced the dark night of unbelief. . . . 
They then decided that for the propagation of Islam they 
should interview the princes one by one, and it should be 


well for those who accepted the faith, but those who refused 
should be slain as heathens and idolaters." The first to 
be examined was a noble named Amir TiJlik. The Khan 
asked him, " Will you embrace Islam ? " Amir Tiilik 
burst into tears and said : " Three years ago I was converted 
by some holy men at Kashgar and became a Musalman, 
but from fear of you I did not openly declare it." Then 
Tuqluq Hian rose up and embraced him, and the three 
sat down again together. In this manner they examined 
the princes one by one, and they all accepted Islam, with 
the exception of one named Jaras, who suggested a trial 
of strength between the Shaykh and his servant, an infidel 
who was above the ordinary stature of man and so strong 
that he could lift a two-year-old camel. The Shayldi 
accepted the challenge, saying : " If I do not throw him, 
I will not require you to become a Musalman. If it is 
God's wish that the Mongols become honoured with the 
blessed state of Islam, He will doubtless give me sufficient 
power to overcome this man." Tuqluq Hian and those 
who had become Musalmans with him tried to dissuade 
the holy man, but he persisted in his purpose. " A large 
crowd assembled, the infidel was brought in, and he and the 
Shaykh advanced towards one another. The infidel, proud 
of his own strength, advanced with a conceited air. The 
Shaykh looked very small and weak beside him. When 
they came to blows, the Shaykh struck the infidel full in the 
chest, and he fell senseless. After a little he came to again, 
and having raised himself, fell again at the feet of the 
Shaykh. crying out and uttering words of belief. The people 
raised loud shouts of applause, and on that day 160,000 
persons cut off the hair of their heads and became Musal- 
mans. The Hian was circumcised, and the lights of Islam 
dispelled the shades of unbelief." From that time Islam 
became the established faith in the settled countries under 
the rule of the descendants of Cha gh atay.^ But many 
of the nomad Mongols appear to have remained outside 
the pale of Islam up to the early part of the fifteenth 
century, judging from the violent methods adopted for 
their conversion by Muhammad I^an, who was I^ian of 

^ Abu' 1-Ghazi. tome ii. pp. 166-8. Muhammad Haydar, pp. 13-15. 


MuiJialistan ^ about 1416. " Muhammad Hian was a wealthy 
prince and a good Musalman. He persisted in following the 
road of justice and equity, and was so unremitting in his 
exertions, that during his blessed reign most of the tribes of 
the Mongols became Musalmans, It is well known what 
severe measures he had recourse to, in bringing the Mongols 
to be believers in Islam. If, for instance, a Mongol did not 
wear a turban, a horseshoe nail was driven into his head : 
and treatment of this kind was common. May God 
recompense him with good." ^ 

Even such drastic measures were ineffectual in bringing 
about a general acceptance of Islam, for as late as at the 
close of the following century,^ a dervish named Ishaq Wall 
found scope for his proselytising activities in Kashgar, 
Yarkand and Khotan, where he spent twelve years in 
spreading the faith ; * he also worked among the Kirghiz 
and Kazaks, from among whom he made 180 converts 
and destroyed eighteen temples of idols. ^ 

In the preceding pages some attempt has been made to 
indicate some of the steps by which the Muslims won over 
to their faith the savage hordes who had destroyed their 
centres of culture. By slow degrees, Islam thus began to 
emerge out of the ruins of its former ascendancy and take 
its place again as a dominant faith, after more than a 
century of depression. In the course of the struggle between 
the followers of rival creeds for the adherence of the Mongols, 
considerations of political expediency undoubtedly operated 
in favour of the Muslim party, and the intrigues of Western 
Christendom caused the Christians to become suspect, as 
agents of a foreign power; but at the beginning such of 
the Mongols as were Nestorians could put forward a better 
claim to be the national party and could attack the Musal- 
mans as adherents of a foreign faith. Ahmad Takiidar 

1 When the power of the Chagjiatay Hians declined, a portion of the 
eastern division of their realm became practically independent under the 
name of Mu^alistan, a pastoral country suited to the habits of nomad 
herdsmen, in what is now known as Chinese Turkistan. 

* Muhammad Haydar, pp. 57-8. 

» In the reign of 'Abd al-Karim, who was Hian of Kashgar from a.h. 
983 to 1003 (a.d. 1575-1594)- 

* Martin Hartmann : Der Islamische Orient, vol. i. p. 203. (Berlin, 1899.) 
' Id. p. 202. 


was denounced by Arghun as a traitor to the law of his 
fathers, in that he had followed the way of the Arabs which 
none of his ancestors had known. ^ The insurrection that 
caused Tarmashh-In to be driven into exile, gained strength 
from the complaint that this monarch had disregarded 
the Yassaq or ancient code of Mongol institutes.^ But 
though the issue of the struggle long remained doubtful, 
Islam gradually gained ground in the lands of which it 
had been dispossessed. The means whereby this success 
was achieved are obscure, and the scanty details set forth 
above leave much of the tale untold, but enough has been 
recorded to indicate some of the proselytising agencies that 
led to individual conversions. Ananda drank in Islam with 
his foster-mother's milk ; ^ and the remnant of the faithful, 
especially the older families of Muhammadan Turks, exer- 
cised an almost insensible influence on the Mongols who 
settled down in their midst. But of special importance 
among the proselytising agencies at work was the influence 
of the pir and his spiritual disciples. In the midst of the 
profound discouragement which filled the Musalmans after 
the flood of the Mongol conquest had poured over them, 
their first refuge was in mysticism, and the pir, or spiritual 
guide, and religious orders — such as the Naqshbandi, 
which in the fourteenth century entered on a new period 
of its development — breathed new life into the Muslim 
community and inspired it with fresh fervour. " In the 
hands of the pir and his monks, the Musalman in Asia 
came to be an agent, at first passive and unconscious, later 
on the adherent of a party — the party of the national 
faith, in opposition to the rule of the Mongols, which was 
at once foreign, barbaric and secular." * 

Let us now return to the history of Islam in the Golden 
Horde. The chief camping ground of this section of the 
Mongols was the grassy plain watered by the Volga, on the 
bank of which they founded their capital city Serai, whither 
the Russian princes sent their tribute to the Idian. The 
conversion of Baraka Khan, of which mention has been 
made above, and the close intercourse with Egypt that 

* Assemani, tome iii. pars. ii. p. cxvi. ' Ibn Batutah, vol. iii. p. 40. 

* Rashid al-Din, p. 600, 1. i. * Cahun, p. 410. 


subsequently sprang up, contributed considerably to the 
progress of Islam, and his example seems to have been 
gradually followed by those of the aristocracy and leaders 
of the Golden Horde that were of Mongol descent. But 
many tribes of the Golden Horde appear to have resented 
the introduction of Islam into their midst, and when the 
conversion of Baraka Mian was openly proclaimed, they 
sent to offer the crown, of which they considered him now 
unworthy, to his rival Hiilagii. Indeed, so strong was this 
opposition, that it seems to have largely contributed to 
the formation of the Nogais as a separate tribe. They took 
their name from Nogay, who was the chief commander 
of the Mongol forces under Baraka Hian. When the 
other princes of the Golden Horde became Musalmans, 
Nogay remained a Shamanist and thus became a rallying 
point for those who refused to abandon the old religion of 
the Mongols. His daughter, however, who was married 
to a Shamanist, became converted to Islam some time after 
her marriage and had to endure the ill-treatment and 
contempt of her husband in consequence. ^ 

To Uzbek Mian, who was leader of the Golden Horde 
from 1313 to 1340, and who distinguished himself by his 
proselytising zeal, it was said, " Content yourself with our 
obedience, what matters our religion to you ? Why should 
we abandon the faith of Chingiz Mian for that of the Arabs ? " 
But in spite of the strong opposition to his efforts, Uzbek 
Mian succeeded in winning many converts to the faith 
of which he was so ardent a follower and which owed to 
his efforts its firm establishment in the country under his 
sway.^ A further sign of his influence is found in the 
tribes of the Uzbeks of Central Asia, who take their name 
from him and were probably converted during his reign. 
He is said to have formed the design of spreading the faith 
of Islam throughout the whole of Russia,^ but here 
he met with no success. Indeed, though the Mongols 
were paramount in Russia for two centuries, they 
appear to have exercised very little influence on the 
people of that country, and least of all in the matter of 

1 Howorth, vol ii. p. 1015. ^ Abu-1 GJiazi, tome ii. p. 184. 

* De Guignes, vol. iii. p. 351. 


religion. It is noticeable, moreover, that in spite of his 
zeal for the spread of his own faith, Uzbek I^an was very 
tolerant towards his Christian subjects, who were left 
undisturbed in the exercise of their religion and even allowed 
to pursue their missionary labours in his territory. One of 
the most remarkable documents of Muhammadan toleration 
is the charter that Uzbek Hian granted to the Metropolitan 
Peter in 1313 : — " By the will and power, the greatness 
and mercy of the most High ! Uzbek to all our princes, 
great and small, etc., etc. Let no man insult the metro- 
politan church of which Peter is the head, or his servants 
or his churchmen ; let no man seize their property, goods 
or people, let no man meddle with the affairs of the metro- 
politan church, since they are divine. Whoever shall 
meddle therein and transgress our edict, will be guilty 
before God and feel His wrath and be punished by us with 
death. Let the metropolitan dwell in the path of safety 
and rejoice, with a just and upright heart let him (or his 
deputy) decide and regulate all ecclesiastical matters. We 
solemnly declare that neither we nor our children nor the 
princes of our realm nor the governors of our provinces 
will in any way interfere with the affairs of the church and 
the metropolitan, or in their towns, districts, villages, 
chases and fisheries, their hives, lands, meadows, forests, 
towns and places under their bailiffs, their vineyards, mills, 
winter quarters for cattle, or any of the properties and goods 
of the church. Let the mind of the metropolitan be always 
at peace and free from trouble, with uprightness of heart let 
him pray to God for us, our children and our nation. Who- 
ever, shall lay hands on anything that is sacred, shall be held 
guilty, he shall incur the wrath of God and the penalty 
of death, that others may be dismayed at his fate. When 
the tribute or other dues, such as custom duties, plough- 
tax, tolls or relays are levied, or when we wish to raise 
troops among our subjects, let nothing be exacted from 
the cathedral churches under the metropolitan Peter, or 
from any of his clergy : . . . whatever may be exacted 
from the clergy, shall be returned threefold. . . Their laws, 
their churches, their monasteries and chapels shall be re- 
spected; whoever condemns or blames this religion, shall 



not be allowed to excuse himself under any pretext, but 
shall be punished with death. The brothers and sons of 
priests and deacons, living at the same table and in the 
same house, shall enjoy the same privileges." ^ 

That these were no empty words and that the toleration here 
promised became a reality, may be judged from a letter sent 
to the Khan by Pope John XXII in 1318, in which he thanks 
the Muslim prince for the favour he showed to his Christian 
subjects and the kind treatment they received at his hands. ^ 
The successors of Uzbek Khan do not appear to have been 
animated by the same zeal for the spread of Islam as he 
had shown, and could not be expected to succeed where he 
failed. So long as the Russians paid their taxes, they were 
left free to worship according to their own desires, and the 
Christian religion had become too closely intertwined with 
the life of the people to be disturbed, even had efforts been 
made to turn them from the faith of their fathers ; for 
Christianity had been the national religion of the Russian 
people for well-nigh three centuries before the Mongols 
established themselves in Russian territory. 

Another race many years before had tried to win the 
Russians to Islam but had likewise failed, viz. the Muslim 
Bulgarians who were found in the tenth century on the 
banks of the Volga, and who probably owed their con- 
version to the Muslim merchants, trading in furs and 
other commodities of the North ; their conversion must 
have taken place some time before a.d. 921, when the 
caliph al-Muqtadir sent an envoy to confirm them in the 
faith and instruct them in the tenets and ordinances of 
Islam. ^ 

These Bulgarians attempted the conversion of Vladimir, 
the then sovereign of Russia, who (the Russian chronicler 
tells us) had found it necessary to choose some religion better 
than his pagan creed, but they failed to overcome his objec- 
tions to the rite of circumcision and to the prohibition of 

^ Karamzin, vol. iv. pp. 391-4. 

* Hammer-Purgstall : Geschichte der Goldenen Horde in Kiptschak, 
p. 290. 

' De Baschkiris quae memoriae prodita sunt ab Ibn-Foszlano et Jakuto, 
interprete C. N. Fraehnio. (Memoires de rAcademie Imperiale des Sciences 
de St. Petersbourg, tome viii. p. 626. 1822.) 


wine, the use of which, he declared, the Russians could never 
give up, as it was the very joy of their life. Equally un- 
successful were the Jews who came from the country of 
the Khazars on the Caspian Sea and had won over the 
king of that people to the Mosaic faith. ^ After listening 
to their arguments, Vladimir asked them where their 
country was. " Jerusalem," they replied, " but God in 
His anger has scattered us over the whole world." " Then 
you are cursed of God," cried the king, " and yet want to 
teach others : begone ! we have no wish, like you, to be 
without a country." The most favourable impression was 
made by a Greek priest who, after a brief criticism of the 
other religions, set forth the whole scheme of Christian 
teaching beginning with the creation of the world and the 
story of the fall of man and ending with the seven oecumenical 
councils accepted by the Greek Church ; then he showed the 
prince a picture of the Last Judgment with the righteous 
entering paradise and the wicked being thrust down into 
hell, and promised him the heritage of heaven, if he would 
be baptised. But Vladimir was unwilling to make a 
rash choice of a substitute for his pagan religion, so 
he called his boyards together and having told them 
of the accounts he had received of the various religions, 
asked them for their advice. " Prince," they replied, 
" every man praises his own religion, and if you would 
make choice of the best, send wise men into the different 
countries to discover which of all the nations honours 
God in the manner most worthy of Him." So the prince 
chose out for this purpose ten men who were eminent 
for their wisdom. These ambassadors found among the 
Bulgarians mean-looking places of worship, gloomy prayers 
and solemn faces ; among the German Catholics religious 
ceremonies that lacked both grandeur and magnificence. 
At length they reached Constantinople : " Let them see 
the glory of our God," said the Emperor. So they were 
taken to the church of Santa Sophia, where the Patriarch, 
clad in his pontifical robes, was celebrating mass. The 
magnificence of the building, the rich vestments of the 
priests, the ornaments of the altars, the sweet odour of 

^ Abu 'Ubayd al-Bakri, pp. 470-1. 


the incense, the reverent silence of the people, and the 
mysterious solemnity of the ceremonial filled the savage 
Russians with wonder and amazement. It seemed to them 
that this church must be the dwelling of the Most High, 
and that He manifested His glory therein to mortals. On 
their return to Kief, the ambassadors gave the prince an 
account of their mission ; they spoke with contempt of the 
religion of the Prophet and had little to say for the Roman 
Catholic faith, but were enthusiastic in their eulogies of the 
Greek Church. " Every man," they said, " who has put 
his lips to a sweet draught, henceforth abhors anything 
bitter; wherefore we having come to the knowledge of the 
faith of the Greek Church desire none other." Vladimir 
once more consulted his boyards, who said unto him, " Had 
not the Greek faith been best of all, Olga, your grandmother, 
the wisest of mortals, would never have embraced it." 
Whereupon Vladimir hesitated no longer and in a.d. 988 
declared himself a Christian. On the day after his baptism 
he threw down the idols his forefathers had worshipped, and 
issued an edict that all the Russians, masters and slaves, 
rich and poor, should submit to be baptised into the 
Christian faith. ^ 

Thus Christianity became the national religion of the 
Russian people, and after the Mongol conquest, the dis- 
tinctive national characteristics of Russians and Tatars 
that have kept the two races apart to the present day, 
the bitter hatred of the Tatar yoke, the devotion of the 
Russians to their own faith and the want of religious zeal 
on the part of the Tatars, kept the conquered race from 
adopting the religion of the conqueror. Especially has 
the prohibition of spirituous liquors by the laws of Islam 
been supposed to have stood in the way of the adoption of 
this religion by the Russian people. 

It would appear that not until after the promulgation 
of the edict of religious toleration in 1905 throughout the 
Russian empire and the active Muslim propaganda that 
followed it, were cases observed of Russians being converted 
to Islam, and those that have occurred are ascribed to the 
strong attraction of the material help offered by the Tatars 

^ Karamsin, tome i. pp. 259-71. 


to such converts and the influence of the moral strength 
of the MusHms themselves.^ 

Not that the Tatars in Russia had been altogether in- 
operative in promoting the spread of Islam during the 
preceding centuries. The distinctly Hellenic type of face 
that is to be found among the so-called Tatars of the Crimea 
has led to the conjecture that these Muhammadans have 
absorbed into their community the Greek and Italian 
populations that they found settled on the Crimean penin- 
sula, and that we find among them the Muhammadanised 
descendants of the indigenous inhabitants, and of the 
Genoese colonists. ^ A traveller of the seventeenth century 
tells us that the Tatars of the Crimea tried to induce their 
slaves to become Muhammadans, and won over many of 
them to this faith by promising them their liberty if they 
would be persuaded.^ Conversions to Islam from among 
the Tatars of the Crimea are also reported after the 
proclamation of religious liberty in 1905.* 

A brief reference may here be made to the Tatars in 
Lithuania, where small groups of them have been settled 
since the early part of the fifteenth century ; these Muslim 
immigrants, dwelling in the midst of a Christian population, 
have preserved their old faith, but (probably for political 
reasons) do not appear to have attempted to proselytise. 
But they have been in the habit of marrying Lithuanian 
and Polish women, whose children were always brought up 
as Muslims, whereas no Muhammadan girl was permitted 
to marry a Christian. The grand dukes of Lithuania in 
the fifteenth century encouraged the marriage of Christian 
women with their Tatar troops, on whom they bestowed 
grants of land and other privileges. ^ 

One of the most curious incidents in the missionary 
history of Islam is the conversion of the Kirghiz of Central 
Asia by Tatar mullas, who preached Islam among them 
in the eighteenth century, as emissaries of the Russian 
government. The Kirghiz began to come under Russian rule 

^ Bobrovnikoff, p. 13. 

2 Reclus, tome v. p. 831. R. du M. M., tome iii. pp. 76, 78. 

3 Relation des Tartares, par Jean de Luca, p. 17. (Thevenot, tome i.) 
* Islam and Missions, p. 257. 

5 Gasztowtt, pp. 321-3, R. du M. M., xi, {1910), pp. 287 sqq, 


about 1731, and for 120 years all diplomatic correspondence 
was carried on with them in the Tatar language under 
the delusion that they were ethnographically the same 
as the Tatars of the Volga. Another misunderstanding on 
the part of the Russian government was that the Kirghiz 
were Musalmans, whereas in the eighteenth century they 
were nearly all Shamanists, as a large number of them were 
still up to the middle of the nineteenth century. At 
the time of the annexation of their country to the Russian 
empire only a few of their Hians and Sultans had any 
knowledge of the faith of Islam — and that very con- 
fused and vague. Not a single mosque was to be 
found throughout the whole of the Kirghiz Steppes, 
or a single religious teacher of the faith of the Prophet, 
and the Kirghiz owed their conversion to Islam to 
the fact that the Russians, taking them for Muhammadans, 
insisted on treating them as such. Large sums of money 
were given for the building of mosques, and mullas 
were sent to open schools and instruct the young in the 
tenets of the Muslim faith : the Kirghiz scholars were to 
receive every day a small sum to support themselves on, 
and the fathers were to be induced to send their children 
to the schools by presents and other means of persuasion. 
An incontrovertible proof that the Musalman propaganda 
made its way into the Kirghiz Steppes from the side of 
Russia, is the circumstance that it was especially those 
Kirghiz who were more contiguous to Europe that first 
became Musalmans, and the old Shamanism lingered up 
to the nineteenth century among those who wandered 
in the neighbourhood of Khiva, BuMiara and Khokand, 
though these for centuries had been Muhammadan 

This is probably the only instance of a Christian govern- 
ment co-operating in the promulgation of Islam, and is 
the more remarkable inasmuch as the Russian government 
of this period was attempting to force Christianity on its 
Muslim subjects in Europe, in continuation of the efforts 

1 The Russian Policy regarding Central Asia. An historical sketch. 
By Prof. V. Grigorief. (Eugene Schuyler : Turkistan, vol. ii. pp. 405-6. 
5th ed. London, 1876) ; Franz von Schwarz ; Turkestan, p. 58. (Freiburg, 


made in the sixteenth century soon after the conquest of 
the Khanate of Kazan. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century many of 
the Kirghiz dwelhng in the vast plains stretching south- 
wards from the district of Tobolsk towards Turkistan were 
still heathen, and the Russian government was approached 
for permission for a Christian mission to be established 
among them. But this request was not granted, on the 
ground that " these people were as yet too wild and savage 
to be accessible to the Gospel. But soon after other mission- 
aries, not depending on the good-will of any government, 
and having more zeal and understanding, occupied this 
field and won the whole of the Kirghis tribe to the faith of 
Islam." 1 

After the conquest of Kazan by the Russians in the 
sixteenth century, the occupation of the former Tatar 
Khanate was followed up by an official Christian missionary 
movement, and a number of the heathen population of 
the Khanate were baptised, the labours of the clergy being 
actively seconded by the police and the civil authorities, 
but as the Russian priests did not understand the language 
of their converts and soon neglected them, it had to be 
admitted that the new converts " shamelessly retain many 
horrid Tartar customs, and neither hold nor know the 
Christian faith." When spiritual exhortations failed, the 
government ordered its officials to " pacify, imprison, put 
in irons, and thereby unteach and frighten from the 
Tartar faith those who, though baptised, do not obey the 
admonitions of the Metropolitan." 

In the eighteenth century the Russian government made 
fresh efforts to convert the heathen tribes and the relapsed 
Tatars, and held out many inducements to them to become 
baptised. Catherine II in 1778 ordered that all the new 
converts should sign a written promise to the effect that 
" they would completely forsake their infidel errors, and, 
avoiding all intercourse with unbelievers, would hold firmly 
and unwaveringly the Christian faith and its dogmas." 
But in spite of all, these so-called " baptised Tartars " were 
Christians only in name, and soon began to try to escape 

^ Islam and Missions, pp. 251-2, 255. 


from the propagandist efforts of the Orthodox Church and 
abandoned Christianity for Islam, their so-called conversion 
merely serving as a stepping-stone to their entrance into 
the faith of the Prophet. 

They may, indeed, have been inscribed in the official 
registers as Christians, but they resolutely stood out against 
any efforts that were made to Christianise them. In a 
semi-official article, published in 1872, the writer says : 
" It is a fact worthy of attention that a long series of evident 
apostasies coincides with the beginning of measures to 
confirm the converts in the Christian faith. There must be, 
therefore, some collateral cause producing those cases of 
apostasy precisely at the moment when the contrary might 
be expected." The fact seems to be that these Tatars 
having all the time remained Muhammadan at heart, 
resisted the active measures taken to make their nominal 
profession of Christianity in any way a reality.^ But in 
the latter part of the nineteenth century efforts were made to 
Christianise these heathen and Muslim tribes by means of 
schools established in their midst. In this way it was hoped 
to win the younger generation, since otherwise it seemed 
impossible to gain an entrance for Christianity among the 
Tatars, for, as a Russian professor said, " The citizens of 
Kazan are hard to win, but we get some little folk from the 
villages on the steppe, and train them in the fear of God. 
Once they are with us they can never turn back." 2 For 
the Russian criminal code used to contain severe enactments 
against those who fell away from the Orthodox Church, ^ 
and sentenced any person convicted of converting a Christian 
to Islam to the loss of all civil rights and to imprisonment 
with hard labour for a term varying from eight to ten years. 
In spite, however, of the edicts of the government, Muslim 
propagandism succeeded in winning over whole villages 

^ D. Mackenzie Wallace : Russia, vol. i. pp. 242-4. (London, 1877, 
4th ed.) R. du M. M., vol. ix. (1909), p. 249. Bobrovnikoff, p. 5 sqq. 

* W. Hepworth Dixon : Free Russia, vol. ii. p. 284. (London, 1870.) 

* E. g. " En 1883, des paysans Tatars du village d'Apozof etaient pour- 
suivis, devant le tribunal de Kazan, pour avoir abandonne I'orthodoxie. 
Les accuses declaraient avoir toujours ete musalmans; sept d'entre eux 
n'en furent pas moins condamnes, comme apostats, aux travaux forces. . . . 
Beaucoup de ces relaps ont ete deportes en Siberie." Anatole Leroy- 
Beaulieu : L'Empire des Tsars et les Russes, tome iii. p. 645. (Paris, 
1889-93.) f f^ \ 


to the faith of Islam, especially among the tribes of north- 
eastern Russia.^ 

The town of Kazan is the chief centre of this missionary 
activity ; a large number of Muslim publications are printed 
here every year, and mullas go forth from the University 
to convert the pagans in the villages and bring back to 
Islam the Tatars who have allowed themselves to be bap- 
tised. The increasing number of these Christian Tatars, 
who have gone to swell the ranks of Islam, has alarmed the 
clergy of the Orthodox Church, but their efforts have failed 
to check the success of the mullas. ^ Especially since the 
edict of toleration in 1905, mass conversions have been 
reported, e. g. in 1909, ninety-one families in the village of 
Atomva are said to have become Muhammadan,^ and as 
many as 53,000 persons between 1906 and 1910.* This 
propaganda is said to owe much of its success to the higher 
moral level of life in Muslim society, as well as to the stronger 
feeling of solidarity that prevails in it ; ^ moreover, the 
methods adopted by the Russian clergy, supported by the 
government, to make the so-called Christian Tatars more 
orthodox, have caused the Christian faith to become un- 
popular among them. ^ On the other hand, the propaganda 
of Islam is very zealously carried forward ; " every simple, 
untaught Moslem is a missionary of his religion, and the 
poor, dark, untaught heathen or half-heathen tribes cannot 
resist their force. In many villages of baptised aborigines 
the men go away for the winter to work as tailors in Moslem 
villages. There they are converted to Islam, and they 
return to their villages as fanatics bringing with them 
Moslem ideas with which to influence their homes." ' 

The tribes that have chiefly come under the influence of 
this missionary movement are the Votiaks, the greater part 
of whom are baptised Christians, but many became Muslims 
in the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth 
centuries ; and the influence of Islam is continually growing 
both among those that are Christian and among the small 

1 D. Mackenzie Wallace : Russia, vol. i. p. 245. 

* Palmieri, pp. 85-6. R. du M. M., i. (1907), pp. 162 sq. 
' R. du M. M., ix. (1909), p. 294. 

* Id. X. (1910), p. 413, Id. i, (1907), p. ?73- ' Id. ix. p. 252. 

* Id. p. 249. ^ Bobrovnikgff, p. 12. 


remnant that is still heathen. The Cheremiss, like the 
Votiaks, are a Finnish tribe, about a quarter of whom are 
still heathen, but many have already embraced Islam and 
it is probable that most of them will soon adopt the same 
religion. The movement of the Cheremiss towards Islam 
made itself manifest in the nineteenth century and though 
many of them were nominally Christian, whole villages 
of them became Muhammadan despite the laws forbidding 
conversion except to the Orthodox Church. ^ They became 
Muhammadan through their immediate contact with the 
Bashkirs and Tatars, whose family and social customs were 
very similar to their own. The process sometimes began 
with intermarriages with Muhammadans — e. g. in one village 
a Cheremiss family intermarried with some Bashkirs and 
adopted their faith; the converts being persecuted as 
" circumcised dogs " in their own village, moved away and 
founded a new settlement some miles off, some wealthy 
Bashkirs helping them with money; but as they were 
officially registered as heathen, they could not get per- 
mission for the building of a mosque, so a few Bashkir 
families in the neighbourhood moved into the new settle- 
ment, in order to make up the number requisite for obtaining 
the necessary official permission. ^ A similar process has 
several times occurred in other villages in which Muham- 
madans have come to settle and have intermarried with 
Cheremiss.^ In other cases there has been a definite 
missionary movement — e. g. in the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century the village of Karakul was inhabited by 
Christian Cheremiss, but shortly after the middle of the 
century some famihes were converted to Islam by a Chere- 
miss who had become a mulla ; on his death he was succeeded 
by a Bashkir from another village. Later on, the converts 
moved away to Tatar and Bashkir villages, their place 
being taken by Tatars, until the whole village became 
practically Tatar, few of the younger generation retaining 
any knowledge of the Cheremiss language, and intermarriages 
taking place only with Tatars.* Apart from this prosely- 
tising activity, there has been a very distinct spread of 

* Reclus, tome v. pp. 746, 748. * Eruslanov, pp. 3, 6. 

' Id. pp. 7-8. * Id. pp. 5-6. 


Tatar influence in speech and manners among the Cheremiss. 
The Tatar language has spread among them, bringing with 
it the moral and religious ideas of Islam; the adoption 
of the Tatar dress is held to be a sign of superior culture, 
and if a Cheremiss does not dress hke a Tatar he runs the 
risk of being laughed at by the first Tatar he meets or by 
his fellow Cheremiss; all this cultural movement tends to 
the ultimate adoption of the Tatar religion. ^ After their 
conversion, the Cheremiss are said to be very zealous in 
the propagation of their new faith and receive the assistance 
of wealthy Tatars ; ^ on the other hand, the Russians despise 
the Cheremiss as an inferior race and apply opprobrious 
epithets even to those among them who are Christians. ^ 
About one-fourth of the Cheremiss are still heathen, but 
Mushm influences are so powerful among them that it is 
probable that in course of time they will for the most part 
become Muhammadans.^ The Chuvash, who number about 
1,000,000, have nearly all been baptised; there are about 
20,000 of them that are still heathen but these are gradually 
being absorbed by Islam, while some of the Christian 
Chuvash have become Muhammadans and the rest are 
coming under Muslim influences. The extent of their zeal 
for their converts may be judged from the instance of a 
Christian Chuvash village, the priest of which had spent 
several years in collecting the 300 roubles necessary for 
the repair of the church; eight Chuvash families became 
Muhammadan and in the course of a few months 2000 
roubles were collected for the building of a mosque. ^ Such 
ready activity is characteristic of the Muslim propaganda 
now being carried among the aboriginal tribes. Each 
family that accepts Islam receives help either in money or 
in kind: a house is built for one; a field, cattle, etc., are 
purchased for another; when several families in a village 
are converted, a mosque is built for them and a school 
estabhshed for their children.^ 

Of the spread of Islam among the Tatars of Siberia, we 
have a few particulars. It was not until the latter half of 

1 Eruslanov, pp. 9, 13. ^ Id. pp. 17. 20, 36. 

3 Id. pp. 38-9. * Bobrovnikoff, p. 22. 

6 Id. pp. 21-2, 31. ^ Id. p. 13. Islam and Missions, p. 257, 


the sixteenth century that it gained a footing in this country, 
but even before this period Muhammadan missionaries had 
from time to time made their way into Siberia with the hope 
of winning the heathen population over to the acceptance 
of their faith, but the majority of them met with a martyr's 
death. When Siberia came under Muhammadan rule, in 
the reign of Kiichum Hian, the graves of seven of these 
missionaries were discovered by an aged Shayldi who came 
from BuMiara to search them out, being anxious that some 
memorial should be kept of the devotion of these martyrs 
to the faith : he was able to give the names of this number, 
and up to the last century their memory was still revered 
by the Tatars of Siberia. ^ When Kiichum Hian (who was 
descended from Jiiji Hian, the eldest son of Chinglz Hian) 
became Hian of Siberia (about the year 1570), either by 
right of conquest or (according to another account) at the 
invitation of the people whose Mian had died without issue,^ 
he made every effort for the conversion of his subjects, and 
sent to BuMiara asking for missionaries to assist him in this 
pious undertaking. One of the missionaries who was sent 
from BuMiara has left us an account of how he set out with 
a companion to the capital of Kiichum Hian, on the bank 
of the Irtish. Here, after two years, his companion died, 
and, for some reasons that the writer does not mention, he 
went back again ; but soon afterwards returned to the scene 
of his labours, bringing with him another coadjutor, when 
Kiichum Khan had appealed for help once more to BuMiara.^ 
Missionaries also came to Siberia from Kazan. But the 
advancing tide of Russian conquest soon brought the 
proselytising efforts of Kiichum Hian to an end before much 
had been accomphshed, especially as many of the tribes 
under his rule offered a strong opposition to all attempts 
made to convert them. 

But though interrupted by the Russian conquest, the 
progress of Islam was by no means stopped. Mullas from 
BuMiara and other cities of Central Asia and merchants 
from Kazan were continually active as missionaries of Islam 
in Siberia. In 1745 an entrance was first effected among 

^ G. F. Miiller : Sammlung Rugsjscher Geschichte, vol. vii. p. 191. 
' Id. vol. vii, pp. 183-4, 3 Radloff, vol i. p. 147, 


the Baraba Tatars (between the Irtish and the Ob), and 
though at the beginning of the nineteenth century many were 
still heathen, they have now all become Musalmans.^ The 
conversion of the Kirghiz has already been spoken of above : 
the history of most of the other Mushm tribes of Siberia 
is very obscure, but their conversion is probably of a recent 
date. Among the instruments of Muhammadan propaganda 
at the present time, it is interesting to note the large place 
taken by the folk-songs of the Kirghiz, in which, interwoven 
with tale and legend, the main truths of Islam make their 
way into the hearts of the common people. ^ 

1 Jadrinzew, p. 138. Radloff, vol. i. p. 241. 
* Radloff, vol. i. pp. 472, 497. 



The Muhammadan invasions of India and the foundation 
and growth of the Muhammadan power in that country, 
have found many historians, both among contemporary and 
later writers. But hitherto no one has attempted to write 
a history of the spread of Islam in India, considered apart 
from the military successes and administrative achievements 
of its adherents. Indeed, to many, such a task must appear 
impossible. For India has often been picked out as a typical 
instance of a country in which Islam owes its existence and 
continuance in existence to the settlement in it of foreign, 
conquering Muhammadan races, who have transmitted their 
faith to their descendants, and only succeeded in spreading 
it beyond their own circle by means of persecution and 
forced conversions. Thus the missionary spirit of Islam is 
supposed to show itself in its true light in the brutal massacres 
of Brahmans by Mahmud of Ghazna. in the persecutions 
of Aurangzeb, the forcible circumcisions effected by Haydar 
'All, Tipu Sultan and the like. 

But among the sixty-six millions of Indian Musalmans 
there are vast numbers of converts or descendants of con- 
verts, in whose conversion force played no part and the 
only influences at work were the teaching and persuasion 
of peaceful missionaries. This class of converts forms a 
very distinct group by itself which can be distinguished 
from that of the forcibly converted and the other hetero- 
geneous elements of which Muslim India is made up. The 
entire community may be roughly divided into those of 
foreign race who brought their faith into the country along 
with them, and those who have been converted from one 
of the previous religions of the country under various induce- 



merits and at many different periods of history. The foreign 
settlement consists of three main bodies : first, and numeri- 
cally the most important, are the immigrants from across 
the north-west frontier, who are found chiefly in Sind and 
the Pan jab; next come the descendants of the court and 
armies of the various Muhammadan dynasties, mainly in 
Upper India and to a much smaller extent in the Deccan ; 
lastly, all along the west coast are settlements probably of 
Arab descent, whose original founders came to India by-? 
sea.i But the number of families of foreign origin that 
actually settled in India is nowhere great except in the jj 
Panjab and its neighbourhood. More than half the Muslim 
population of India has indeed assumed appellations of 
distinctly foreign races, such as Shaykh. Beg, Khan, and even 
Sayyid, but the greater portion of them are local converts or 
descendants of converts, who have taken the title of the 
person of highest rank amongst those by whom they were 
converted or have affiliated themselves to the aristocracy 
of Islam on even less plausible grounds. ^ Of this latter 
section of the community — the converted natives of the 
country — part no doubt owed their change of religion to 
force and oflicial pressure, but by far the majority of them 
entered the pale of Islam of their own free will. The history 
of the pix)seTytising movements and the social influences that 
brought about their conversion has hitherto received very 
little attention, and most of the commonly accessible histories 
of the Muhammadans in India, whether written by European 
or by native authors, are mere chronicles of wars, campaigns 
and the achievements of princes, in which little mention of 
the religious life of the time finds a place, unless it has 
taken the form of fanaticism or intolerance. From the 
biographies of the Muslim saints, however, and from local 
traditions, something may be learned of the missionary work 
that was carried on quite independently of the political life 
of the country. But before dealing with these it is pro- 
posed to give an account of the official propagation of Islam 
and of the part played by the Muhammadan rulers in the 
spread of their faith. 

^ Census of India, 1891. General Report by J. A. Baines, p. 167. 
(London, 1893.) 2 i^^ pp ^26, 207. 


From the fifteenth year after the death of the Prophet, 
when an Arab expedition was sent into Sind, up to the 
eighteenth century, a series of Muhammadan invaders, some 
founders of great empires, others mere adventurers, poured 
into India from the north-west. While some came only to 
plunder and retired laden with spoils, others remained to 
found kingdoms that have had a lasting influence to the 
present day. But of none of these do we learn that they 
were accompanied by any missionaries or preachers. Not 
that they were indifferent to their religion. To many of 
them, their invasion of India appeared in the light of a 
holy war. Such was evidently the thought in the minds of 
Mahmiid of Qiazn^ and Timiir. The latter, after his 
capture of DehH, writes as follows in his autobiography : — 
" I had been at Dehh fifteen days, which time I passed in 
pleasure and enjoyment, holding royal Courts and giving 
great feasts. I then reflected that I had come to Hindustan 
to war against infidels, and my enterprise had been so blessed 
that wherever I had gone I had been victorious. I had 
triumphed over my adversaries, I had put to death some 
lacs of infidels and idolaters, and I had stained my proselyt- 
ing sword with the blood of the enemies of the faith. Now 
this crowning victory had been won, and I felt that I ought 
not to indulge in ease, but rather to exert myself in warring 
against the infidels of Hindustan." ^ Though he speaks 
much of his " proselyting sword," it seems, however, to have 
served no other purpose than that of sending infidels to hell. 
j Most of the Mushm invaders seem to have acted in a very 
I similar way ; in the name of Allah, idols were thrown down, 
1 their priests put to the sword, and their temples destroyed ; 
\while mosques were often erected in their place. It is true 
that the offer of Islam was generally made to the unbelieving 
"Hindus before any attack was made upon them.^ Fear 
occasionally dictated a timely acceptance of such offers and 
led to conversions which, in the earher days of the Muham- 
madan invasion at least, were generally short-lived and 
ceased to be effective after the retreat of the invader. An 

^ Elliot, vol. ii. p. 448. 

^ Mu^iammad b. Qasim invited the Hindu princes to embrace Islam, 
and the invaders who followed him were probably equally observant of 
the reUgious law. (Elhot, vol, i. pp. 175, 207.) 


illustration in point is furnished by the story of Hardatta, 
a ra'is of Bulandshahr, whose submission to Mahmiid of 
Ghazna is thus related in the history of that conqueror's 
campaigns written by his secretary. " At length (about 
A.D. 1019) he (i. e. Mahmiid) arrived at the fort of Barba/ 
in the country of Hardat, who was one of the ra'is, that is 
" kings," in the Hindi language. When Hardat heard of 
this invasion by the protected warriors of God, who advanced 
like the waves of the sea, with the angels around them on 
all sides, he became greatly agitated, his steps trembled, and 
he feared for his life, which was forfeited under the law of 
God. So he reflected that his safety would best be secured 
by conforming to the religion of Islam, since God's sword 
was drawn from the scabbard, and the whip of punishment 
was uplifted. He came forth, therefore, with ten thousand 
men, who all proclaimed their anxiety for conversion and 
their rejection of idols." ^ 

These new converts probably took the earliest opportunity 
of apostatising presented to them by the retreat of the 
conqueror — a kind of action which we find the early Muham- 
madan historians of India continually complaining of. For 
when Qutb al-Din Ibak attacked Baran in 1193, he was 
stoutly opposed by Chandrasen, the then Raja, who was a 
lineal descendant of Hardatta and whose very name betrays 
his Hindu faith : nor do we hear of there being any 
Musalmans remaining under his rule.^ 

But these conquerors would appear to have had very little 
of that " love for souls " which animates the true missionary 
and which has achieved such great conquests for Islam. 
The Hiiljis (1290-1320), the Tugjilaqs (1320-1412), and the 
Lodis (1451-1526) were generally too busily engaged in 
fighting to pay much regard to the interests of rehgion, or 
else thought more of the exaction of tribute than of the 
work of conversion.* Not that they were entirely lacking 

1 Or Baran, the old name of Bulandshahr. ^ Elliot, vol. ii. pp. 42-3. 

' Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. iii. part ii. p. 85. 

* " The military adventurers, who founded dynasties in Northern India 
and carved out kingdoms in the Dekhan, cared little for things spiritual ; 
most of them had indeed no time for proselytism, being continually engaged 
in conquest or in civil war. They were usually rough Tartars or Mogbals; 
themselves ill-grounded in the faith of Mahomed, and untouched by the 
true Semitic enthusiasm which inspired the first Arab standard bearers of 


in religious zeal : e. g. the Ghakkars, a barbarous people in 
the mountainous districts of the North of the Panjab, who 
gave the early invaders much trouble, are said to have been 
converted through the influence of Muhammad Ghori at the 
end of the twelfth century. Their chieftain had been taken 
prisoner by the Muhammadan monarch, who induced him 
to become a Musalman, and then confirming him in his title 
of chief of this tribe, sent him back to convert his followers, 
many of whom having little religion of their own were easily 
prevailed upon to embrace Islam. ^ According to Ibn 
Batiitah, the Khiljis offered some encouragement to con- 
version by making it a custom to have the new convert 
presented to the sultan, who clad him in a robe of honour 
and gave him a collar and bracelets of gold, of a value 
proportionate to his rank.^ But the monarchs of the earlier 
Muhammadan dynasties as a rule evinced very little prosely- 
tising zeal, and it would be hard to find a parallel in their 
history to the following passage from the autobiography of 
Firiiz Shah Tug^laq (1351-1388) : " I encouraged my infidel 
subjects to embrace the rehgion of the Prophet, and I 
proclaimed that every one who repeated the creed and 
became a Musalman should be exempt from the jizyah, or 
poll tax. Information of this came to the ears of the people 
at large and great numbers of Hindus presented themselves, 
and were admitted to the honour of Islam. Thus they came 
forward day by day from every quarter, and, adopting the 
faith, were exonerated from the jizyah, and were favoured 
with presents and honours." ^ 

As the Muhammadan power became consohdated, and 
particularly under the Mughal dynasty, the rehgious influ- 
ences of Islam naturally became more permanent and per- 
sistent. These influences are certainly apparent in the Hindu 

Islam. The empire which they set up was purely military, and it was 
kept in that state by the half success of their conquests and the comparative 
failure of their spiritual invasion. They were strong enough to prevent 
anything like religious amalgamation among the Hindus, and to check the 
gathering of tribes into nations; but so far were they from converting 
India, that among the Mahommedans themselves their own faith never 
acquired an entire and exclusive monopoly of the high offices of adminis- 
tration." (Sir Alfred C. Lyall : Asiatic Studies, p. 289.) (London, 1882.) 

^ Firishtah, vol. i. p. 184. 

* Ibn Batiitah, tome iii. p. 197. . ' Elliot, vol. iii. p. 386. 


theistic movements that arose in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, and Bishop Lefroy has conjectured that the 
positive character of Mushm teaching attracted minds that 
were dissatisfied with the vagueness and subjectivity of a 
Pantheistic system of thought. " When Mohammedanism, 
with its strong grasp of the reahty of the Divine existence 
and, as flowing from this, of the absolutely fixed and objec- 
tive character of truth, came into conflict with the haziness 
of Pantheistic thought and the subjectivity of its belief, it 
necessarily followed, not only that it triumphed in the 
struggle, but also that it came as a veritable tonic to the 
life and thought of Upper India, quickening into a fresh 
and more vigorous life many minds which never accepted for ^ 
themselves its intellectual sway." ^ 

A powerful incentive to conversion was offered, when 
adherence to an idolatrous system stood in the way of 
advancement at the Muhammadan courts; and though a 
spirit of tolerance, which reached its culmination under the 
eclectic Akbar, was very often shown towards Hinduism, and 
respected even, for the most part, the state endowments of 
that religion -^ and though the dread of unpopularity and the 
desire of conciliation dictated a policy of non-interference 
and deprecated such deeds of violence and such outbursts of 
fanaticism as had characterised the earlier period of invasion 
and triumph, still such motives of self-interest gained many 
converts from Hinduism to the Muhammadan faith. Many^ 
Rajputs became converts in this way, and their descendants \ 
are to this day to be found among the landed aristocracy, j 
The most important perhaps among these is the Musalman 
branch of the great Bachgoti clan, the head of which is the 
premier Muhammadan noble of Oudh. According to one 
tradition, their ancestor Tilok Chand was taken prisoner by 
the Emperor Babar, and to regain his liberty adopted the 
faith of Islam ; ^ but another legend places his conversion in 
the reign of Humayiin, This prince having heard of the 
marvellous beauty of Tilok Chand's wife, had her carried 
off while she was at a fair. No sooner, however, was she 

^ Mankind and the Church, p. 286. (London, 1907.) 
* Sir Richard Temple : India in 1880, p. 164. (London, i88i.) Punjab 
States Gazetteers, vol. xxxvi a, Bahawalpur, p. 183. 
3 Manual of Titles for Oudh, p. 78. (Allahabad, 1889.) 


brought to him than his conscience smote him and he sent 
for her husband. Tilok Chand had despaired of ever seeing 
her again, and in gratitude he and his wife embraced the 
faith " which taught such generous purity." ^ These con- 
verted Rajputs are very zealous in the practice of their 
rehgion, yet often betray their Hindu origin in a very striking 
manner. In the district of Bulandshahr, for example, a 
large Musalman family, which is known as the Lalkhani 
Pathans, still (with some exceptions) retains its old Hindu 
titles and family customs of marriage, while Hindu branches 
of the same clan still exist side by side with it.^ In the 
Mirzapur district, the Gaharwar Rajputs, who are now 
Muslim, still retain in all domestic matters Hindu laws 
and customs and prefix a Hindu honorific title to their 
Muhammadan names. ^ 

Official pressure is said never to have been more persist- 
ently brought to bear upon the Hindus than in the reign of 
Aurangzeb. In the eastern districts of the Panjab, there 
are many cases in which the ancestor of the Musalman 
branch of the village community is said to have changed his 
religion in the reign of this zealot, " in order to save the land 
of the village." In Gurgaon, near Dehli, there is a Hindu 
family of Banyas who still bear the title of Shaykh (which 
is commonly adopted by converted Hindus), because one of 
the members of the family, whose line is now extinct, became 
a convert in order to save the family property from confisca- 
Ltion.^ Many Rajput landowners, in the Cawnpore district, 
were compelled to embrace Islam for the same reason.^ In 

^ Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, vol. i. p. 466. 

^ Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. iii. part ii. p. 46. 

' Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. xiv. part ii. p. 119. In the Cawnpore 
district, the Musalman branch of the Dikhit family observes Muhammadan 
customs at births, marriages, and deaths, and, though they cannot, as a 
rule, recite the prayers (namaz), they perform the orthodox obeisances 
(sijdah). But at the same time they worship Chachak Devi to avert 
small-pox, and keep up their friendly intercourse with their old caste 
brethren, the Thakurs, in domestic occurrences, and are generally called 
by common Hindu names. (Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. vi. p. 64.) 

* Ibbetson, p. 163. 

^ Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. vi. p. 64. Compare also id. vol. xiv. 
part iii. p. 47. " Muhammadan cultivators are not numerous; they are 
usually Nau-Muslims. Most of them assign the date of their conversion 
to the reign of Aurangzeb, and represent it as the result sometimes of 
persecution and sometimes as made to enable them to retain their rights 
when unable to pay revenue." 


other cases the ancestor is said to have been carried as a 
prisoner or hostage to Dehh, and there forcibly circumcised 
and converted. 1 It should be noted that the only authority 
for these forced conversions is family or local tradition, and 
no mention of such (as far as I have been able to discover) 
is made in the historical accounts of Aurangzeb's reign. ^ It 
is established without doubt that forced conversions have 
been made by Muhammadan rulers, and it seems probable 
that Aurangzeb's well-known zeal on behalf of his faith has 
caused many famihes of Northern India (the history of whose 
conversion has been forgotten) to attribute their change of 
faith to this, the most easily assignable cause. Similarly in 
the Deccan, Aurangzeb shares with Haydar 'All and Tipii 
Sultan (these being the best known of modern Muhammadan 
rulers) the reputation of having forcibly converted sundry 
famihes and sections of the population, whose conversion 
undoubtedly dates from a much earher period, from which 
no historical record of the circumstances of the case has come 

Tipii Sultan is probably the Muhammadan monarch who 
most systematically engaged in the work of forcible conver- 
sion. In 1788 he issued the following proclamation to the 
people of Malabar : " From the period of the conquest until 
this day, during twenty-four years, you have been a turbu- 
lent and refractory people, and in the wars waged during 
your rainy season, you have caused numbers of our warriors 
to taste the draught of martyrdom. Be it so. What is past 
is past. Hereafter you must proceed in an opposite manner, 
dwell quietly and pay your dues like good subjects ; and since 
it is the practice with you for one woman to associate with 
ten men, and you leave your mothers and sisters uncon- 
strained in their obscene practices, and are thence all born 
in adultery, and are more shameless in your connections 
than the beasts of the field, I hereby require you to forsake 
these sinful practices and to be like the rest of mankind; 

^ Ibbetson, p. 163. 

* Indeed Firishtah distinctly says : " Zealous for the faith of Mahommed, 
he rewarded proselytes with a liberal hand, though he did not choose to 
persecute those of different persuasions in matters of rehgion." (The 
History of Hindostan, translated from the Persian, by Alexander Dow, 
vol. iii. p. 361.) (London, 1812.) 

» The Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xxii. p. 222; vol. xxiii. p. 282. 


and if you are disobedient to these commands, I have made 
repeated vows to honour the whole of you with Islam and 
to march all the chief persons to the seat of Government." 
This proclamation stirred up a general revolt in Malabar, 
and early in 1789 Tipii Sultan prepared to enforce his 
proclamation with an army of more than twenty thousand 
men, and issued general orders that " every being in the 
district without distinction should be honoured with Islam, 
that the houses of such as fled to avoid that honour should 
be burned, that they should be traced to their lurking places, 
and that all means of truth and falsehood, force or fraud 
should be employed to effect their universal conversion." 
Thousands of Hindus were accordingl}/ circumcised and made 
to eat beef; but by the end of 1790 the British army had 
destroyed the last remnant of Tipii Sultan's power in 
Malabar, and this monarch himself perished early in 1799 
at the capture of Seringapatam. Most of the Brahmans 
and Nayars who had been forcibly converted, subsequently 
disowned their new religion. ^ 

How little was effected towards the spread of Islam by 
violence on the part of the Muhammadan rulers may be 
judged from the fact that even in the centres of the Muham- 
madan power, such as Dehli and Agra, the Muhammadans 
in modern times in the former district hardly exceeded 
one-tenth, and in the latter they did not form one-fourth of 
the population. 2 A remarkable example of the worthless- 
ness of forced conversion is exhibited in the case of Bodh 
Mai, Raja of MajhauH, in the district of Gorakhpur ; he was 
arrested by Akbar in default of revenue, carried to Dehli, 
and there converted to Islam, receiving the name of Muham- 
mad Salim. But on his return his wife refused to let him 
into the ancestral castle, and, as apparently she had the 
sympathy of his subjects on her side, she governed his 
territories during the minority of his son Bhawani Mai, so 
that the Hindu succession remained undisturbed.^ Until 
recently there were some strange survivals of a similarly 
futile false conversion, noticeable in certain customs of a 

^ Innes, pp. 72-3, 190. 

* Sir W. W. Hunter : The Religions of India. {The Times, February 
25th, 1888.) 

3 Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. vi. p. 518. 


Hindu sect called the Bishnois, the principal tenet of whose 
faith is the renunciation of all Hindu deities, except Visnu. 
They used recently to bury their dead, instead of burning 
them, to adopt Oiulam Muhammad and other Muhammadan 
names, and use the Muslim form of salutation. They ex- 
plained their adoption of these Muhammadan customs by 
saying that having once slain a Qadi, who had interfered 
with their rite of widow-burning, they had compounded for 
the offence by embracing Islam. They have now, however, 
renounced these practices in favour of Hindu customs. ^ 

But though some Muhammadan rulers may have been 
more successful in forcing an acceptance of Islam on certain 
of their Hindu subjects than in the last-mentioned cases, 
and whatever truth there may be in the assertion 2 that 
"it is impossible even to approach the religious side of the 7 
Mahomedan position in India without surveying first its 
political aspect," we undoubtedly find that Islam has gained 
its greatest and most lasting missionary triumphs in times , 
and places in which its pohtical power has been weakest, 
as in Southern India and Eastern Bengal. Of such mis- 
sionary movements it is now proposed to essay some account, 
commencing with Southern India and the Deccan, then 
after reviewing the history of Sind, Cutch and Gujarat, 
passing to Bengal, and finally noticing some missionaries 
whose work lay outside the above geographical limits. Of 
several of the missionaries to be referred to, little is recorded 
beyond their names and the sphere of their labours ; accord- 
ingly, in view of the general dearth of such missionary annals, 
any available details have been given at length. 

The first advent of Islam in South India dates as far back 
as the eighth century, when a band of refugees, to whom 
the Mappillas trace their descent, came from 'Iraq and 
settled in the country.^ The trade in spices, ivory, gems, 
etc., between India and Europe, which for many hundred 
years was conducted by the Arabs and Persians, caused a 
continual stream of Muhammadan influence to flow in upon 
the west coast of Southern India. From this constant influx 

1 Gazetteer of the N.W.P., vol. v. part i. pp. 302-3. 
* Sir Alfred C. Lyall : Asiatic Studies, p. 236. 

' A tomb in the cemetery of Pantalayini KoUam bears an inscription 
with the date a.h. 166. (Innes, p. 436.) 


of foreigners there resulted a mixed population, half Hindu 
and half Arab or Persian, in the trading centres along the 
coast. Very friendly relations appear to have existed be- 
tween these Muslim traders and the Hindu rulers, who 
extended to them their protection and patronage in con- 
sideration of the increased commercial activity and con- 
sequent prosperity of the country, that resulted from their 
presence in it,^ and no obstacles were placed in the way of 
proselytising, the native converts receiving the same con- 
sideration and respect as the foreign merchants, even though 
before their conversion they had belonged to the lowest 
grades of society.^ 

The traditionary account of the introduction of Islam into 
Malabar, as given by a Muhammadan historian of the 
sixteenth century, represents the first missionaries to have 
been a party of pilgrims on their way to visit the foot-print 
of Adam in Ceylon ; on their arrival at Cranganore the Raja 
sent for them and the leader of the party, Shaykh Sharaf 
b. Mahk, who was accompanied by his brother, Malik b. 
Dinar, and his nephew, Malik b, Habib, took the oppor- 
tunity of expounding to him the faith of Islam and the 
mission of Muhammad, " and God caused the truth of the 
Prophet's teaching to enter into the king's heart and he 
beheved therein; and his heart became filled with love for 
the Prophet and he bade the Shaykh and companions come 
back to him again on their return from their pilgrimage to 
Adam's foot-print." ^ On the return of the pilgrims from 
Ceylon, the king secretly departed with them in a ship bound 
for the coast of Arabia, leaving his kingdom in the hand 
of viceroys. Here he remained for some time, and was 
just about to return to his own country, with the intention 
of erecting mosques there and spreading the faith of Islam, 
when he fell sick and died. On his death-bed he solemnly 
enjoined on his companions not to abandon their proposed 
missionary journey to Malabar, and to assist them in their 
labours, he gave them letters of recommendation to his 
viceroys, at the same time bidding them conceal the fact 
of his death. Armed with these letters, Sharaf b. Malik 

^ Zayn al-Din, pp. 34-5. ^ Id. p. 36 (init.). 

' Id. p. 21. 


and his companions sailed for Cranganore, where the king's 
letter secured for them a kindly welcome and a grant of 
land, on which they built a mosque. Mahk b. Dinar decided 
to settle there, but Mahk b. Habib set out on a missionary 
tour with the object of building mosques throughout Malabar. 
" So Malik b. Habib set out for Quilon with his worldly 
goods and his wife and some of his children, and he built 
a mosque there ; then leaving his wife there, he went on to 
Hill Marawi,! where he built a mosque " ; and so the narrative 
continues, giving a list of seven other places at which the 
missionary erected mosques, finally returning to Cranganore. 
Later on, he visited all these places again to pray in the 
mosque at each of them, and came back " praising and 
giving thanks to God for the manifestation of the faith of 
Islam in a land filled with unbehevers." ^ 

In spite of the circumstantial character of this narrative, 
there is no evidence of its historicity. Popular behef puts 
the date of the events recorded as far back as the hfetime 
of the Prophet ; with a mild scepticism Zayn al-Din thought 
that they could not have been earher than the third century 
of the Hi] rah; ^ but there is no more authority for the one 
date than for the other, or for the common Mappilla tradition 
of the existence of the tomb of a Hindu king at Zafar, on the 
coast of Arabia, bearing the inscription, " 'Abd al-Rahman 
al-Samirl, arrived a.h. 212, died a.h. 216 "; * and the mosque 
at Madayi, said to have been founded by Mahk b. Dinar, 
bears an inscription commemorating its erection in a. D. 1124.^ 

But the legend certainly bears witness to the peaceful 
character of the proselytising influences that were at work 
on the Malabar coast for centuries. The agents in this work 
were chiefly Arab merchants, but Ibn Batiitah makes 
mention of several professed theologians from Arabia and 
elsewhere, whom he met in various towns on the Malabar 
coast.^ The Zamorin of Cahcut, who was one of the chief 
patrons of Arab trade, is said to have encouraged conversion 
to Islam, in order to man the Arab ships on which he depended 
for his aggrandisement, and to have ordered that in every 

1 The modern Madayi. " Zayn al-Din, pp. 23-4. 

^ Id. p. 25. * Innes, p. 41. 

5 Id. p. 398. * Ibn Batutah, tome iv. pp. 82, 88, etc. 


family of fishermen in his dominion one or more of the male 
members should be brought up as Muhammadans.i At the 
beginning of the sixteenth century the Mappillas were esti- 
mated to have formed one-fifth of the population of Malabar, 
spoke the same language as the Hindus, and were only 
distinguished from them by their long beards and pecuhar 
head-dress. But for the arrival of the Portuguese, the 
whole of this coast would have become Muhammadan, 
because of the frequent conversions that took place and 
the powerful influence exercised by the Mushm merchants 
from other parts of India, such as Gujarat and the Deccan, 
and from Arabia and Persia. ^ 

But there would appear to be no record of the individuals 
who took part in the propaganda, except in the case of the 
historian 'Abd al-Razzaq, who has himself left an account 
of his unsuccessful mission to the court of the Zamorin of 
Calicut. He was sent on this mission in the year 1441 by 
the Timiirid Shah Ruldi Bahadur, in response to an appeal 
made by an ambassador who had been sent by the Zamorin 
of Calicut to this monarch. The ambassador was himself a 
Musalman and represented to the Sultan how excellent and 
meritorious an action it would be to send a special envoy 
to the Zamorin, " to invite him to accept Islam in accordance 
with the injunction ' Summon thou to the ways of thy 
Lord with wisdom and with kindly warning,' ^ and open the 
bolt of darkness and error that locked his benighted heart, 
and let the splendour of the light of the faith and the bright- 
ness of the sun of knowledge shine into the window of his 
soul." 'Abd al-Razzaq was chosen for this task and after 

* Innes, p. 190. 

* Oboardo Barbosa, p. 310. 

Similarly it has been conjectured that but for the arrival of the Portu- 
guese, Ceylon might have become a Muhammadan kingdom. For before 
the Portuguese armaments appeared in the Indian seas, the Arab merchants 
were undisputed masters of the trade of this island (where indeed they had 
formed commercial establishments centuries before the birth of the Prophet), 
and were to be found in every sea-port and city, while the facilities for 
commerce attracted large numbers of fresh arrivals from their settlements 
in Malabar. Here as elsewhere the Mushm traders intermarried with the 
natives of the country and spread their rehgion along the coast. But no 
very active proselytising movement would seem to have been carried on, 
or else the Singhalese showed themselves unwilling to embrace Islam, as 
the Muhammadans of Ceylon at the present day appear mostly to be of 
Arab descent. (Sir James Emerson Tennent: Ceylon, vol. i. pp. 631-3.) 
(5th ed., London, i860.) 3 Qur'an, xvi. 126. 


an adventurous journey reached Calicut, but appears to 
have met with a cold reception, and after remaining there for 
about six months abandoned his original purposes and made 
his way back to Khurasan, which he reached after an 
absence of three years. ^ 

Another community of Musalmans in Southern India, the 
Ravuttans,^ ascribe their conversion to the preaching of 
missionaries whose tombs are held in veneration by them 
to the present day. The most famous of these was Sayyid 
Nathar Shah ^ (a.d. 969-1039) who after many wanderings 
in Arabia, Persia and Northern India, settled down in 
Trichinopoly, where he spent the remaining years of his 
life in prayer and works of charity, and converted a large 
number of Hindus to the faith of Islam; his tomb is much 
resorted to as a place of pilgrimage and the Muhammadans 
re-named Trichinopoly Nathamagar, after the name of their 
saint.* Sayyid Ibrahim Shahid (said to have been born 
about the middle of the twelfth century), whose tomb is 
at Ervadi, was a militant hero who led an expedition into 
the Pandyan kingdom, occupied the country for about 
twelve years, but was at length slain ; his son's life was, 
however, spared in consideration of the beneficent rule of 
his father, and a grant of land given to him, which his 
descendants enjoy to the present day. The latest of these 
saints, Shah al-Hamid (1532-1600), was born at Manikpur 
in Northern India, and spent most of his life in visiting the 
holy shrines of Islam and in missionary tours chiefly 
throughout Southern India; he finally settled in Nagore, 
where the descendants of his adopted son are still in charge 
of his tomb.^ 

Another group of Muhammadans in Southern India, the 
Dudekulas, who live by cotton cleaning (as their name 
denotes) and by weaving coarse fabrics, attribute their 
conversion to Baba Fakhr al-Din, whose tomb they revere 

^ 'Abd al-Razzaq : Matla' al-sa'dayn, fol. 173. 

^ They are found chiefly in the Tamil-speaking districts of Madura, 
Tinnevelly, Coimbatore, North Arcot and the Nilgiris. 

3 The Imperial Gazetteer of India (vol. xxiv. p. 47) spells his name Nadir 
Shah ; Qadir Husayn Khan calls him Nathad Vali. 

* Madras District Gazetteers. Trichinopoly, vol. i. p. 338. (Madras, 
1907.) Qadir Husayn Hian : South Indian Musalmans, p. 36. (Madras, 1910.) 

* Qadir ^usayn Khan, pp. 36-8. 



at Penukonda. Legend says that he was originally a king 
of Sistan, who abdicated his throne in favour of his brother 
and became a religious mendicant. After making the 
pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, he was bidden by the 
Prophet in a dream to go to India ; here he met Nathar Shah, 
of Trichinopoly, and became his disciple and was sent by him 
in company with 200 religious mendicants on a proselytising 
mission. The legend goes on to say that they finally settled 
at Penukonda in the vicinity of a Hindu temple, where their 
presence was unwelcome to the Raja of the place, but 
instead of appealing to force he applied several tests to 
discover whether the Muhammadan saint or his own priest 
was the better qualified by sanctity to possess the temple. 
As a final test, he had them both tied up in sacks filled 
with lime and thrown into tanks. The Hindu priest never 
re-appeared, but Baba Fakhr al-DIn asserted the superiority 
of his faith by being miraculously transported to a hill 
outside the town. The Raja hereupon became a Musalman, 
and his example was followed by a large number of the 
inhabitants of the neighbourhood, and the temple was 
turned into a mosque.^ 

The history of Islam in Southern India by no means 
always continued to be of so peaceful a character, but it 
does not appear that the forcible conversions of the Hindus 
and others to Islam which were perpetrated when the 
Muhammadan power became paramount under Haydar 
'All (1767-1782) and TIpu Sultan (1782-1799), can be 
paralleled in the earlier history of this part of India. 
However this may be, there is no reason to doubt that 
constant conversions by peaceful methods were made to 
Islam from among the lower castes, ^ as is the case at the 
present day when accessions to Islam from time to time occur 
from among the Tiyans, who are said to form one of the 
most progressive communities in India, the Mukkuvans or 
fisherman caste, as well as from the Cherumans or agricul- 
tural labourers, and other serf castes, to whom Islam brings 
deliverance from the disabilities attaching to the outcasts 

1 Qadir Husayn Hian, op. cit. pp. 39-42. Madras District Gazetteers. 
Anantapur, vol. i. pp. 193-4. (Madras, 1905.) 

2 Zayn al-Din, pp. 33 (1. 4), 36 (1. i). 


of the Hindu social system ; occasionally, also, converts are 
drawn from among the Nayars and the native Christians. 
In Ponnani, the residence of the spiritual head of the 
majority of the Muhammadans of Malabar, there is an 
association entitled Minnat al-Islam Sabha, where converts 
are instructed in the tenets of their new faith and material 
assistance rendered to those under instruction ; the average 
number of converts received in this institution in the course 
of the first three years of the twentieth century, was 750.-^ 
So numerous have these conversions from Hinduism been, 
that the tendency of the Muhammadans of the west as well 
as the east coast of Southern India has been to reversion to 
the Hindu or aboriginal type, and, except in the case of some 
of the nobler families, they now in great part present all the 
characteristics of an aboriginal people, with very little of the 
original foreign blood in them.^ In the western coast dis- 
tricts the tyranny of caste intolerance is peculiarly oppres- 
sive ; to give but one instance, in Travancore certain of the 
lower castes may not come nearer than seventy-four paces 
to a Brahman, and have to make a grunting noise as they 
pass along the road, in order to give warning of their ap- 
proach. Similar instances might be abundantly multiplied. 
What wonder, then, that the Musalman population is fast 
increasing through conversion from these lower castes, who 
thereby free themselves from such degrading oppression, and 
raise themselves and their descendants in the social scale ? 

In fact the Mappilas on the west coast are said to be 
increasing so considerably through accessions from the 
lower classes of Hindus, as to render it possible that in a 
few years the whole of the lower races of the west coast may 
become Muhammadans,^ 

It was most probably from Malabar that Islam crossed 
over to the Laccadive and Maldive Islands, the population 
of which is now entirely Muslim. The inhabitants of these 
islands owed their conversion to the Arab and Persian 
merchants, who established themselves in the country, 

^ Innes, p. 190. Census of India, 1911. Vol. xii. Part. I. p. 54. 

* Report on the Census of the Madras Presidency, 1 871, by W. R. Cornish, 
pp. 71, 72, 109. (Madras, 1874.) 

^ Report of the Second Decennial Missionary Conference held at Calcutta 
1882-3 (pp. 228, 233, 248). (Calcutta, 1883.) 


intermarrying with the natives, and thus smoothing the way 
for the work of active proselytism. The date of the con- 
version of the first Muhammadan Sultan of the Maldive 
Islands, Ahmad Shaniirazah,^ has been conjectured to have 
occurred about a.d. 1200, but it is very possible that the 
Muhammadan merchants had introduced their religion into 
the island as much as three centuries before, and the process 
of conversion must undoubtedly have been a gradual one.'^ 
No details, however, have come down to us. 

At Male, the seat of government, is found the tomb of 
Shaykh Yusuf Shams al-Din, a native of Tabriz, in Persia, 
who is said to have been a successful missionary of Islam in 
these islands. His tomb is still held in great veneration, 
and always kept in good repair, and in the same part of the 
island are buried some of his countrymen who came in search 
of him, and remained in the Maldives until their death. ^ 

The introduction of Islam into the neighbouring Laccadive 
Islands is attributed to an Arab preacher, known to the 
islanders by the name of Mumba Mulyaka ; his tomb is still 
shown at Androth and as the present qadi of that place 
claims to be twenty-sixth in descent from him, he probably 
reached these islands some time in the twelfth century.* 

The Deccan also was the scene of the successful labours of 
many Muslim missionaries. It has already been pointed out 
that from very early times Arab traders had visited the 
towns on the west coast ; in the tenth century we are told 
that the Arabs were settled in large numbers in the towns 
of the Konkan, having intermarried with the women of the 
country and living under their own laws and religion.^ 
Under the Muhammadan dynasties of the Bahmanid (1347- 
1490) and Bijapiir (1489-1686) kings, a fresh impulse was 
given to Arab immigration, and with the trader and the 
soldier of fortune came the missionaries seeking to make 

^ Ibn Batutah, tome iv. p. 128. Ibn Batutah resided in the Maldive 
Islands during the years 1343-4 ^^'^ married " the daughter of a Vizier 
who was grandson of the Sultan Da'ud, who was a grandson of the Sultan 
Ahmad Shanurazah " (tome iv. p. 154) ; from this statement the date 
A.D. 1200 has been conjectured. 

2 H. C. P. Bell : The Maldive Islands, pp. 23-5, 57-8, 71. (Colombo, 1883.) 

' Memoir on the Inhabitants of the Maldive Islands. By J. A. Young 
and W. Christopher. (Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society 
from 1836 to 1838, p. 74. Bombay, 1844.) 

* Innes, pp. 485, 492. » Mas'udi, tome ii. pp. 85-6. 


spiritual conquests in the cause of Islam, and win over the 
unbelieving people of the country by their preaching and 
example, for of forcible conversions we have no record under 
the early Deccan dynasties, whose rule was characterised by 
a striking toleration. ^ 

One of these Arab preachers, PIr Mahabir Khamdayat, 
came as a missionary to the Deccan as early as a.d. 1304, 
and among the cultivating classes of Bijapur are to be found 
descendants of the Jains who were converted by him.^ 
About the close of the same century a celebrated saint of 
Gulbarga, Sayyid Muhammad Gisiidaraz,^ converted a 
number of Hindus of the Poona district, and twenty years 
later his labours were crowned with a like success in Belgaum."* 
At Dahanu still reside the descendants of a relative of one 
of the greatest saints of Islam, Sayyid 'Abd al-Qadir Jllani 
of Baghdad ; he came to Western India about the fifteenth 
century, and after making many converts in the Konkan, 
died and was buried at Dahanu.^ In the district of Dharwar, 
there are large numbers of weavers whose ancestors were 
converted by Hashim Pir GujaratI, the religious teacher of 
the BIjapiir king, Ibrahim 'Adil Shah II, about the close of 
the sixteenth century. These men still regard the saint 
with special reverence and pay great respect to his descen- 
dants.^ The descendants of another saint. Shah Muham- 
mad Sadiq Sarmast Husayni, are still found in Nasik; he 
is said to have been the most successful of Muhammadan 
missionaries ; having come from Medina in 1568, he travelled 
over the greater part of Western India and finally settled 
at Nasik — in which district another very successful Muslim 
missionary, Miwajah Khunmir Husayni, had begun to 
labour about fifty years before.' Two other Arab mis- 
sionaries may be mentioned, the scene of whose proselytising 
efforts was laid in the district of Belgaum, namely Sayyid 
Muhammad b. Sayyid 'All and Sayyid 'Umar 'Aydriis 

^ The Bombay Gazetteer, vol. x. p 132; vol. xvi. p. 75. 
^ Id. vol. xxiii. p. 282. 

* Sometimes called Sayyid Makhdum Gisudaraz. 

* The Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xviii. p. 501 ; vol. xxi. pp. 218, 223. 

* Id. vol. xiii. part i. p. 231. * Id. vol. xxii. p. 242. 
' Id. vol. xvi. pp. 75-6. 8 Id. vol. xxi. p. 203. 


Another missionary movement may be said roughly to 
centre round the city of Multan.^ This in the early days 
of the Arab conquest was one of the outposts of Islam, 
when Muhammad b. Qasim had established Muhammadan 
supremacy over Sind (a.d. 714). During the three centuries 
of Arab rule there were naturally many accessions to the 
faith of the conquerors. Several Sindian princes responded 
to the invitation of the Caliph 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz to 
embrace Islam. ^ The people of Sawandari — who submitted 
to Muhammad b. Qasim and had peace granted to them on 
the condition that they would entertain the Musalmans and 
furnish guides — are spoken of by al-Baladhuri (writing about 
a hundred years later) as professing Islam in his time; 
and the despatches of the conqueror frequently refer to the 
conversion of the unbelievers. 

That these conversions were in the main voluntary, may 
be judged from the toleration that the Arabs, after the first 
violence of their onslaught, showed towards their idolatrous 
subjects. The people of Brahmanabad, for example, whose 
city had been taken by storm, were allowed to repair their 
temple, which was a means of livelihood to the Brahmans, 
and nobody was to be forbidden or prevented from following 
his own religion,^ and generally, where submission was made, 
quarter was readily given, and the people were permitted 
the exercise of their own creeds and laws. 

During the troubles that befell the caliphate in the latter 
half of the ninth century, Sind, neglected by the central 
government, came to be divided among several petty 
princes, the most powerful of whom were the Amirs of 
Multan and Mansura. Such disunion naturally weakened 
the political power of the Musalmans, which had in fact 
begun to decline earlier in the century. For in the reign 
of al-Mu'tasim (a.d. 833-842), the Indians of Sindan* 
declared themselves independent, but they spared the 
mosque, in which the Musalmans were allowed to perform 
their devotions undisturbed. ^ The Muhammadans of Multan 

1 At the time of the Arab conquest the dominions of the Hindu ruler of 
Sind extended as far north as this city, which is now no longer included in 
this province. ^ Baladhuri, p. 441 (fin.) ^ Elliot, vol. i. pp. 185-6. 

* Probably the Sindan in Abrasa, the southern district of Cutch. 

^ Baladhuri, p. 446. 


succeeded in maintaining their political independence, and 
kept themselves from being conquered by the neighbouring 
Hindu princes, by threatening, if attacked, to destroy an 
idol which was held in great veneration by the Hindus and 
was visited by pilgrims from the most distant parts. '^ But 
in the hour of its political decay, Islam was still achieving 
missionary successes. Al-Baladhuri ^ tells the following story 
of the conversion of a king of 'Usayfan, a country between 
Kashmir and Multan and Kabul. The people of this 
country worshipped an idol for which they had built a 
temple. The son of the king fell sick, and he desired the 
priests of the temple to pray to the idol for the recovery of 
his son. They retired for a short time, and then returned 
saying : " We have prayed and our supplications have been 
accepted." But no long time passed before the youth died. 
Then the king attacked the temple, destroyed and broke in 
pieces the idol, and slew the priests. He afterwards invited 
a party of Muhammadan traders, who made known to him 
the unity of God; whereupon he believed in the unity and 
became a Muslim. A similar missionary influence was 
doubtless exercised by the numerous communities of 
Muslim merchants who carried their religion with them into 
the infidel cities of Hindustan. Arab geographers of the 
tenth and twelfth centuries mention the names of many 
such cities, both on the coast and inland, where the Musal- 
mans built their mosques, and were safe under the protection 
of the native princes, who even granted them the privilege 
of living under their own laws.^ The Arab merchants at this 
time formed the medium of commercial communication 
between Sind and the neighbouring countries of India and 
the outside world. They brought the produce of China and 
Ceylon to the sea-ports of Sind and from there conveyed 
them by way of Multan to Turkistan and Khurasan.^ 

It would be strange if these traders, scattered about in 
the cities of the unbelievers, failed to exhibit the same 
proselytising zeal as we find in the Muhammadan trader 
elsewhere. To the influence of such trading communities 

^ Istakhrl. pp. 173-4. ^ Baladhuri. p. 446. 

t Istakhri. loc. cit. Ibn Hawqal, p. 230 sq. Idrisi (Geographic 

d'Edrisi, traduite par P. A. Jaubert, vol. i. p. 175 sqq.). 
* Mas'udi, vol. i. p. 207. 


was most probably due the conversion of the Sammas, who 
ruled over Sind from a.d. 1351 to 1521. While the reign of 
Nanda b. Babiniyyah of this dynasty is specially mentioned 
as one of such " peace and security, that never was this 
prince called upon to ride forth to battle, and never did 
a foe take the field against him," ^ it is at the same time 
described as being " remarkable for its justice and an 
increase of Islam." This increase could thus only have 
been brought about by peaceful missionary methods. One 
of the most famous of these missionaries was the celebrated 
saint, Sayyid Yiisuf al-Din, a descendant of 'Abd al-Qadir 
Jilanl, who was bidden in a dream to leave Ba|^dad for 
India and convert its inhabitants to Islam. He came to 
Sind in 1422 and after labouring there for ten years, he 
succeeded in winning over to Islam 700 families of the 
Lohana caste, who followed the example of two of their 
number, by name Sundarji and Hansraj ; these men em- 
braced Islam, after seeing some miracles performed by the 
saint, and on their conversion received the names of Adamji 
and Taj Muhammad respectively. Under the leadership of 
the grandson of the former, these people afterwards migrated 
to Cutch, where their numbers were increased by converts 
from among the Cutch Lohanas.^ 

Sind was also the scene of the labours of PIr Sadr 
al-Din, an Isma'ili missionary, who was head of the 
Khojah sect about the year 1430. In accordance with 
the principles of accommodation practised by this sect, 
he took a Hindu name and made certain concessions to 
the religious beliefs of the Hindus whose conversion he 
sought to achieve, and introduced among them a book 
entitled Dasavatar in which 'AH was made out to be the 
tenth Avatar or incarnation of Visnu ; this book has been 
from the beginning the accepted scripture of the Khojah 
sect, and it is always read by the bedside of the dying and 
periodically at many festivals; it assumes the nine incar- 
nations of Visnu to be true as far as they go, but to fall short 
of the perfect truth, and supplements this imperfect Vaisnav 
system by the cardinal doctrine of the Isma'Ilians, the incar- 
nation and coming manifestation of 'AH. Further, he made 

1 Elliot, vol. i. p. 273. 2 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. i. p. 93. 


out Brahma to be Muhammad, Visnu to be 'Ali and Adam 
Siva. The first of Pir Sadr al-DIn's converts were won in 
the villages and towns of Upper Sind : he preached also in 
Cutch and from these parts the doctrines of this sect spread 
southwards through Gujarat to Bombay; and at the present 
day Khojah communities are to be found in almost all the 
large trading towns of Western India and on the seaboard 
of the Indian Ocean. ^ 

Pir Sadr al-Din was not however the first of the Isma'Ilian 
missionaries who came into India. He was preceded by 
'Abd Allah, a missionary sent from Yaman about 1067 ; 
he is said to have been a man of great learning, and is 
credited with the performance of many miracles, whereby 
he convinced a large number of Hindus of the truth 
of his religion.^ The second Isma'Ili missionary, Nur 
al-DIn, generally known by the Hindu name he adopted, 
NiJr Satagar, was sent into India from Alamut, the 
stronghold of the Grand Master of the Isma'ilis, and 
reached Gujarat in the reign of the Hindu king, Siddha Raj 
(a.d. 1094-1143).^ He adopted a Hindu name but told the 
Muhammadans that his real name was Sayyid Sa'adat ; he 
is said to have converted the Kanbis, Kharwas and Koris, 
low castes of Gujarat.* 

As Niir Satagar is revered as the first missionary of the 
Khojahs, so is 'Abd Allah believed by some to have been 
the founder of the sect of the Bohras, a large and important 
community of Shl'ahs, mainly of Hindu origin, who are 
found in considerable numbers in the chief commercial 
centres of the Bombay Presidency. But others ascribe 
the honour of being the first Bohra missionary to Mulla 
'All, of whose proselytising methods the following account 
is given by a Shi' ah historian : "As the people of 
Gujarat in those days were infidels and accepted as 
their religious leader an old man whose teaching they 

^ Khoja Vrttant, p. 208. Sir Bartle Frere : The Khojas : the Disciples 
of the Old Man of the Mountain. Macmillan's Magazine, vol. xxxiv. 
PP- 431. 433-4- (London, 1876.) 

^ Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii. p. 26. 

* K. B. FazaluUah LutfuUah conjectures that Nur Satagar came to 
India rather later, in the reign of Bhima II (a.d. i 179-1242.) (Bombay- 
Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii. p. 38.) 

* Khoja Vrttant, p. 154-8. 


blindly followed, MuUa 'Ali saw no alternative but to go 
to the old man and ask to become his disciple, intending 
to set before him such convincing arguments that he would 
become a Musalman, and afterwards to attempt the con- 
version of others. He accordingly spent some years in the 
service of the old man, and having learned the language of 
the people of the country, read their books and acquired a 
knowledge of their sciences. Step by step he unfolded to 
the enlightened mind of the old man the truth of the faith 
of Islam and persuaded him to become a Musalman. After 
his conversion, some of his disciples followed the old man's 
example. Finally, the chief minister of the king of that 
country became aware of the old man's conversion to 
Islam, and going to see him submitted to his spiritual guid- 
ance and likewise became a Musalman. For a long time, 
the old man, the minister and the rest of the converts to 
Islam, kept the fact of their conversion concealed and through 
fear of the king always took care to prevent it coming to his 
knowledge ; but at length the king received a report of the 
minister's having adopted Islam and began to make inquiries. 
One day, without giving previous notice, he went to the 
minister's house and found him bowing his head in prayer 
and was vexed with him. The minister recognised the 
purpose of the king's visit, and realised that his displeasure 
had been excited by suspicions aroused by his prayer, with 
its bowing and prostrations ; but the guidance of God and 
divine grace befitting the occasion, he said that he was 
making these movements because he was watching a serpent 
in the corner of the room. When the king turned towards 
the corner of the room, by divine providence he saw a snake 
there, and accepted the minister's excuse and his mind 
was cleared of all suspicions. In the end the king also 
secretly became a Musalman, but for reasons of state con- 
cealed his change of mind; when however, the hour of his 
death drew near, he gave orders that his body was not to 
be burnt, as is the custom of the infidels. Subsequently 
to his decease, when Sultan Zafar, one of the trusty nobles 
of Sultan Firiiz Shah, king of Dehli, conquered Gujarat, some 
of the Sunni nobles who accompanied him used arguments 
to make the people join the Sunni sect of the Muslim faith ; 


so some of the Bohras are Sunnis, but the greater part remain 
true to their original faith." ^ 

Several small groups of Musalmans in Cutch and Gujarat 
trace their conversion to Imam Shah of Pirana," who was 
actively engaged in missionary work during the latter half 
of the fifteenth century. He is said to have converted a 
large body of Hindu cultivators, by bringing about a faU of 
rain after two seasons of scarcity. On another occasion 
meeting a band of Hindu pilgrims passing through Pirana 
on their way to Benares, he offered to take them there ; they 
agreed and in a moment were in the holy city, where they 
bathed in the Ganges and paid their vows ; they then awoke 
to find themselves still in Pirana and adopted the faith of 
the saint who could perform such a miracle. He died in 
1512 and his tomb in Pirana is still an object of pilgrimage 
for Hindus as well as for Muhammadans.^ 

Many of the Cutch Musalmans that are of Hindu descent 
reverence as their spiritual leader Dawal Shah Pir, whose 
real name was Malik 'Abd al-LatIf,* the son of one of the 
nobles of Mahmiid BIgarah (1459-1511), the famous monarch 
of the Muhammadan dynasty of Gujarat, to whose reign 
popular tradition assigns the date of the conversion of many 
Hindus. 5 

It is in Bengal, however, that the Muhammadan mission- 
aries in India have achieved their greatest success, as far as 
numbers are concerned. A Muhammadan kingdom was first 
founded here at the end of the twelfth century by Muham- 
mad Balditiyar Khilji, who conquered Bihar and Bengal 
and made Gaur the capital of the latter province. The long 
continuance of the Muhammadan rule would naturally assist 
the spread of Islam, and though the Hindu rule was restored 
for ten years under the tolerant Raja Kans, whose rule is 
said to have been popular with his Muhammadan subjects,^ 
his son, Jatmall, renounced the Hindu religion and became 
a Musalman. After his father's death in 1414 he called 

1 Nur Allah al-Shushtari : Majalis al-Mu'minln, fol. 65. (India Office 
MS. No. 1400.) * A town ten miles south-west of Ahmadabad. 

' Bombay Gazetteer, vol. ix. part ii. pp. 66, 76. 

* Bombay Gazetteer, vol. v. p. 89. 

^ Id. vol. ii. p. 378 ; vol. iii. pp. 36-7. 

* So Firishtah, but see H. Blochmann : Contributions to the Geography 
and History of Bengal. (J. A. S. B., vol. xlii. No. i, pp. 264-6. 1873.) 


together all the officers of the state and announced his inten- 
tion of embracing Islam, and proclaimed that if the chiefs 
would not permit him to ascend the throne, he was ready 
to give it up to his brother; whereupon they declared that 
they would accept him as their king, whatever religion he 
might adopt. Accordingly, several learned men of the 
Muslim faith were summoned to witness the Raja renounce 
the Hindu religion and publicly profess his acceptance of 
Islam : he took the name of Jalal al-Din Muhammad Shah, 
and according to tradition numerous conversions were made 
during his reign. ^ Many of these were however due to force, 
for his reign is signalised as being the only one in which any 
wholesale persecution of the subject Hindus is recorded, 
during the five centuries and a half of Muhammadan rule 
in Eastern Bengal. ^ 

Conversions, however, often took place at other times 
under pressure from the Muhammadan government. The 
Rajas of Kharagpur were originally Hindus, and became 
Muhammadans because, having been defeated by one of 
Akbar's generals, they were only allowed to retain the 
family estates on the condition that they embraced Islam. 
The Hindu ancestor of the family of Asad 'All Khan, in 
Chittagong, was deprived of his caste by being forced to 
smell beef and had perforce to become a Muhammadan, and 
several other instances of the same kind might be quoted.^ 

Murshid Oull Hian (son of a converted Brahman), who was 
made governor of Bengal by the Emperor Aurangzeb at the 
beginning of the eighteenth century, enforced a law that 
any official or landord, who failed to pay the revenue that 
was due or was unable to make good the loss, should with 
his wife and children be compelled to become Muhammadans. 
Further, it was the common law that any Hindu who forfeited 
his caste by a breach of regulations could only be reinstated 
by the Muhammadan government ; if the government refused 
to interfere, the outcast had no means of regaining his 
position in the social system of the Hindus, and would 
probably find no resource but to become a Musalman.* 

^ J. H. Ravenshaw : Gaur : its ruins and inscriptions, p. 99. (London 
1878.) Firishtah, vol. iv. p. 337. ^ Wise, p. 29. 

3 Census of India, 1901, vol. vi. part i. p. 170. ■• Id. p. 30. 


The Afgjian adventurers who settled in this province also 
appear to have been active in the work of proselytising, for 
besides the children that they had by Hindu women, they 
used to purchase a number of boys in times of scarcity, and 
educate them in the tenets of Islam. ^ But it is not in the 
ancient centres of the Muhammadan government that the 
Musalmans of Bengal are found in large numbers, but in 
the country districts, in districts where there are no traces 
of settlers from the West, and in places where low-caste 
Hindus and outcasts most abound. ^ The similarity of man- 
ners between these low-caste Hindus and the followers of 
the Prophet, and the caste distinctions which they still 
retain, as well as their physical likeness, all bear the same 
testimony and identify the Bengal Musalmans with the 
aboriginal tribes of the country. Here Islam met with na "^ 
consolidated religious system to bar its progress, as in the 
north-west of India, where the Muhammadan invaders found 
Brahmanism full of fresh life and vigour after its triumphant \ 
struggle with Buddhism ; where, in spite of persecutions, its 
influence was an inspiring force in the opposition offered by 
the Hindus, and retained its hold on them in the hour of 
their deepest distress and degradation. But in Bengal the 
Muslim missionaries were welcomed with open arms by the 
aborigines and the low castes on the very outskirts of 
Hinduism, despised and condemned by their proud Aryan 
rulers. " To these poor people, fishermen, hunters, pirates, 
and low-caste tillers of the soil, Islam came as a revelation 
from on high. It was the creed of the ruling race, its 
missionaries were men of zeal who brought the Gospel of the 
unity of God and the equality of men in its sight to a de- 
spised and neglected population. The initiatory rite rendered 
relapse impossible, and made the proselyte and his posterity 
true believers for ever. In this way Islam settled down on 
the richest alluvial province of India, the province which 
was capable of supporting the most rapid and densest 
increase of population. Compulsory conversions are occa- 
sionally recorded. But it was not to force that Islam owed 

^ Charles Stewart : The History of Bengal, p. 176. (London, 181 3.) H. 
Blochmann : Contributions to the Geography and History of Bengal, 
(J. A. S. B., vol. xlii. No. i, p. 220. 1873.) 

' The Indian Evangelical Review, p. 278. (January 1883.) 


its permanent success in Lower Bengal. It appealed to the 
people, and it derived the great mass of its converts from 
the poor. It brought in a higher conception of God, and 
a nobler idea of the brotherhood of man. It offered to the 
teeming low castes of Bengal, who had sat for ages abject 
on the outermost pale of the Hindu community, a free 
entrance into a new social organisation." ^ 

The existence in Bengal of definite missionary efforts is 
said to be attested by certain legends of the zeal of private 
individuals on behalf of their religion, and the graves of 
some of these missionaries are still honoured, and are 
annually visited by hundreds of pilgrims.^ One of the 
earliest of these was Shaykh Jalal al-DIn TabrizT, who 
died in a.d. 1244. He was a pupil of the great saint, 
Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi. In the course of his mis- 
sionary journeys he visited Bengal, where a shrine to 
which is attached a rich endowment was erected in his 
honour, the real site of his tomb being unknown. Many 
miracles are ascribed to him ; among others, that he 
converted a Hindu milkman to Islam by a single look.^ 

In the nineteenth century there was a remarkable revival 
of the Muhammadan religion in Bengal, and several sects 
that owe their origin to the influence of the Wahhabi 
reformation, have sent their missionaries through the 
province purging out the remnants of Hindu superstitions, 
awakening rehgious zeal and spreading the faith among 

Some account stiU remains to be given of Muslim mission- 
aries who have laboured in parts of India other than those 
mentioned above. One of the earliest of these is Shaykh 
Isma'il, one of the most famous of the Sayyids of Bukhara, 
distinguished alike for his secular and religious learning; 
he is said to have been the first Muslim missionary who 
preached the faith of Islam in the city of Lahore, whither 
he came in the year a.d. 1005. Crowds flocked to listen to 
his sermons, and the number of his converts swelled rapidly 
day by day, and it is said that no unbeliever ever came 

^ Sir W. W. Hunter : The Religions of India. {The Times, February 25, 
1888.) See also Wise, p. 32. 2 wise, p. 37. 

3 Blochmann, op. cit. p. 260. < Wise, pp. 48-55, 


into personal contact with him without being converted to 
the faith of Islam. ^ 

The conversion of the inhabitants of the western plains of 
the Pan jab is said to have been effected through the preach- 
ing of Baha al-Haqq of Multan ^ and Baba Farid al-Din of 
Pakpattan, who flourished about the end of the thirteenth 
and beginning of the fourteenth centuries. ^ A biographer 
of the latter saint gives a Hst of sixteen tribes who were 
won over to Islam through his preaching, but unfortunatel}' 
provides us with no details of this work of conversion.'* 

One of the most famous of the Muslim saints of India 
and a pioneer of Islam in Rajputana was Hiwajah Mu'in 
al-Din Chishtl, who died in Ajmir in A.D. 1234. He was a 
native of Sajistan to the east of Persia, and is said to have 
received his call to preach Islam to the unbelievers in India 
while on a pilgrimage to Medina. Here the Prophet appeared 
to him in a dream and thus addressed him : " The Almighty 
has entrusted the country of India to thee. Go thither and 
settle in Ajmir. By God's help, the faith of Islam shall, 
through thy piety and that of thy followers, be spread in 
that land." He obeyed the call and made his way to Ajmir 
which was then under Hindu rule and idolatry prevailed 
throughout the land. Among the first of his converts here 
was a Yogi, who was the spiritual preceptor of the Raja 
himself : gradually he gathered around him a large body of 
disciples whom his teachings had won from the ranks of 
infidehty, and his fame as a rehgious leader became very 
widespread and attracted to Ajmir great numbers of Hindus 
whom he persuaded to embrace Islam. ^ On his way to 
Ajmir he is said to have converted as many as 700 persons 
in the city of Dehli. 

Of immense importance in the history of Islam in India 
was the arrival in that country of Sayyid Jalal al-Din, who 
is said to have been born at BuWiara in 1199. He settled 
in Uch, now in the Bahawalpur territory, in 1244, and 
converted numbers of persons in the neighbourhood to 

1 Ghulam Sar\var : Khazinat al-Asfiya, vol. ii. p. 230. 

" Otherwise known as Shaykh Baha al-Din Zakariyya. 

' Ibbetson, p. 163. 

* A§^ar 'All : Jawahir-i-Faridi (a.h, 1033). p. 395. (Lahore, 1884.) 

6 Elliot, vol, ii. p. 548. 


Islam; he died in 1291, and his descendants, many of whom 
are also revered as saints, have remained as guardians of 
his shrine up to the present day and form the centre of a 
widespread rehgious influence. His grandson, Sayyid 
Ahmad Kabir, known as MaWidiim-i-Jahaniyan, is credited 
with having effected the conversion of several tribes in the 
Punjab. 1 About a mile to the east of Uch is situated the 
shrine of Hasan Kabir al-Dln, son of Sayyid Sadr al-Din, 
who was a contemporary of Jalal-al-Din; both father and 
son are said to have made many converts, and such was 
the influence attributed to Hasan Kabir al-Dln that it was 
said as soon as his glance fell upon any Hindu, the latter 
would accept Islam. ^ 

Rather later in the same century, a native of Persian 
'Iraq, by name Abu 'All Qalandar, came into India and 
took up his residence at Panipat, where he died at the ripe 
age of 100, in a.d. 1324. The Mushm Rajputs of this city, 
numbering about 300 males, are descended from a certain 
Amir Singh who was converted by this saint. His tomb 
is still held in honour and is visited by many pilgrims. 

Another such was ShayMi Jalal al-Din, a Persian who 
came into India about the latter half of the fourteenth 
century and settled down at Silhat, in Lower Assam, in 
order to convert the people of these parts to Islam. He 
achieved a great reputation as a holy man, and his proselyt- 
ising labours were crowned with eminent success.^ 

In more recent years there have been abundant witnesses 
for Islam seeking to spread this faith in India — and with 
very considerable success ; the second half of the nineteenth 
century especially witnessed a great revival of missionary 
activity, the number of annual conversions being variously 
estimated at ten, fifty, one hundred and six hundred 
thousand.* But it is difficult to obtain accurate information 
on account of the peculiarly individualistic character of 
Muslim missionary work and the absence of any central 

1 Punjab States Gazetteers, vol. xxxvi A. Bahawalpur State. (Lahore, 
1908), p. 160 sqq. The names of some of the tribes who ascribe their 
conversion to Makhdum-i-Jahaniyan are given on p. 162. 

2 Id. p. 171. 3 Ibn Batutah, tome iv. p. 217. Yule, p. 515. 

* The Indian EvangeUcal Review, vol. xvi, pp. 52-3. (Calcutta, 1889-90.) 
The Contemporary Review, February 1889, p. 170. The Spectator, 
October 15, 1887, p. 1382. 


organisation or of anything in the way of missionary reports, 
and the success that attends the labours of MusHm preachers 
is sometimes much exaggerated, e. g. in the Panjab a certain 
Haji Muhammad is said to have converted as many as 
200,000 Hindus, 1 and a mawlavl in Bangalore boasted that 
in five years he had made as many as 1000 converts in this 
city and its suburbs. But that there are Muslim missionaries 
engaged in active and successful propagandist labours is 
undoubted, and the following examples are typical of the 
period referred to. 

Mawlavl Baqa Husayn Hian, an itinerant preacher, in 
the course of several years converted 228 persons, residents 
of Bombay, Cawnpore, Ajmir, and other cities. Mawlavi 
Hasan 'All converted twenty-five persons, twelve in Poona, 
the rest in Haydarabad and other parts of India. ^ In the 
district of Khandesh, in the Bombay Presidency, the preach- 
ing of the Qadi of Nasirabad, Sayyid Safdar 'Ali, won over 
to Islam a large body of artisans, who follow the trade of 

1 Garcin de Tassy : La Langue et la Litterature Hindoustanies de 1850 a 
1869, p. 343. (Paris, 1874.) 

^ Mawlavi Hasan 'Ali furnished me with these figures some years before 
his death in 1896. In an obituary notice published in " The Moslem 
Chronicle" (April 4, 1896), the following quaint account is given of his 
life : "In private and school hfe, he was marked as a very intelligent lad 
and made considerable progress in his scholastic career within a short time. 
He passed Entrance at a very early age and received scholarship with which 
he went up to the First Art, but shortly after his innate anxiety to seek 
truth prompted him to go abroad the world, and abandoning his studies he 
mixed with persons of different persuasions, Fakirs, Pandits, and Christians, 
entered churches, and roamed over wilderness and forests and cities with 
nothing to help him on except his sincere hopes and absolute reliance on 
the mercy of the Great Lord ; for one year he wandered in various regions 
of religion until in 1874 he accepted the post of a headmaster in a Patna 
school. ... As he was born to become a missionary of the Moslem faith, 
he felt an imperceptible craving to quit his post, from which he used to get 
Rs. 100 per mensem. He tendered his resignation, much to the reluctance 
of his friends, and maintained himself for some time by pubhshing a monthly 
journal, ' Noorul Islam.' He gave several lectures on Islam at Patna, and 
then went to Calcutta, where he delivered his lecture in EngUsh, which 
produced such effect on the audience that several European clergymen 
vouchsafed the truth of Islam, and a notable gentleman, Babu Bepin 
Chandra Pal, was about to become Musalman. He was invited by the 
people at Dacca, where his preachings and lectures left his name imbedded 
in the hearts of the citizens. His various books and pamphlets and 
successive lectures in Urdu and in English in the different cities and towns 
in India gave him a historic name in the world. Some one hundred men 
become Musalmans on hearing his lectures and reading his books." His 
missionary zeal manifested itself up to the last hour of his life, when he was 
overheard to say, " Abjure your religion and become a Musalman." On 
being questioned, he said he was talking to a Christian. 


armourers or blacksmiths. ^ A number of persons of the 
same trade, who form a small community of about 200 
souls in the district of Nasik, were converted in a curious 
way about 1870. The Presbyterian missionaries of Nasik 
had for a long time been trying to convert them from 
Hinduism, and they were in a state of hesitation as to 
whether or not to embrace Christianity when a Muhammadan 
faqir from Bombay, who was well acquainted with their 
habits of thought, expounded to them the doctrines of Islam 
and succeeded in winning them over to that faith. 2 

In Patiala, Mawlavi 'Ubayd Allah, a converted Brahman 
of great learning, proved himself to be a zealous preacher of 
Islam, and in spite of the obstacles that were at first thro^vn 
in his way by his relatives, achieved so great a success that 
his converts almost filled an entire ward of the city. He 
wrote controversial works, which have passed through 
several editions, directed against the Christian and Hindu 
rehgions. In one of these books he thus speaks of his own 
conversion : " I, Muhammad 'Ubayd Allah, the son of 
Munshi Kota Mai, resident of Payal, in the Patiala State, 
declare that this poor man in his childhood and during the 
lifetime of his father was held in the bondage of idol- worship, 
but the mercy of God caught me by the hand and drew me 
towards Islam, i. e. I came to know the excellence of Islam 
and the deficiencies of Hinduism, and I accepted Islam heart 
and soul and counted myself one of the servants of the 
Prophet of God (peace be upon him !). At that time intelli- 
gence, which is the gift of God, suggested to me that it was 
mere folly and laziness to blindly follow the customs of one's 
forefathers and be misled by them and not make researches 
into matters of religion and faith, whereon depend our eternal 
bliss or misery. With these thoughts I began to study the 
current faiths and investigated each of them impartially. 
I thoroughly explored the Hindu rehgion and conversed 
with learned Pandits, gained a thorough knowledge of the 
Christian faith, read the books of Islam and conversed with 
learned men. In all of them I found errors and fallaci<^s, 
with the exception of Islam, the excellence of which became 

1 Bombay Gazetteer, vol. xii. p. 126. 
» Id. vol. xvi. p. 81. 


clearly manifest to me ; its leader, Muhammad the Prophet, 
possesses such moral excellences that no tongue can describe 
them, and he alone who knows the beliefs and the liturgy, 
and the moral teachings and practice of this faith, can fully 
realise them. Praise be to God ! So excellent is this 
religion that everything in it leads the soul to God. In 
short, by the grace of God, the distinction between truth 
and falsehood became as clear to me as night and day, dark- 
ness and light. But although my heart had long been 
enlightened by the brightness of Islam and my mouth 
fragrant with the profession of faith, yet my evil passions 
and Satan had bound me with the fetters of the luxury and 
ease of this fleeting world, and I was in evil case because of 
the outward observances of idolatry. At length, the grace 
of God thus admonished me : ' How long wilt thou keep this 
priceless pearl hidden within the shell and this refreshing 
perfume shut up in the casket ? thou shouldest wear this 
pearl about thy neck and profit by this perfume.' Moreover 
the learned have declared that to conceal one's faith in 
Islam and retain the dress and habits of infidels brings a 
man to Hell. So (God be praised !) on the 'Id al-Fitr 1264 
the sun of my conversion emerged from its screen of clouds, 
and I performed my devotions in public with my Muslim 
brethren." ^ 

Many Muhammadan preachers have adopted the methods 
of Christian missionaries, such as street preaching, tract 
distribution, and other agencies. In many of the large 
cities of India, Muslim preachers may be found daily 
expounding the teachings of Islam in some principal 
thoroughfare. In Bangalore this practice is very general, 
and one of these preachers, who was the imam of the mosque 
about the year 1890, was so popular that he was even some- 
times invited to preach by Hindus : he preached in the 
market-place, and in the course of seven or eight years 
gained forty-two converts. In Bombay a Muhammadan 
missionary preaches almost daily near the chief market of 
the city, and in Calcutta there are several preaching-stations 
that are kept constantly supphed. Among the converts are 
occasionally to be found some Europeans, mostly persons in 

^ Tuhfat al-Hind, p. 3. (Dehli, a.h. 1309.) 


indigent circumstances; the mass, however, are Hindus. * 
Some of the numerous Anjumans that have of recent years 
sprung up in the chief centres of Musalman hfe in India, 
include among their objects the sending of missionaries to 
preach in the bazars ; such are the Anjuman Himayat-i-Islam 
of Lahore, and the Anjuman Hami Islam of Ajmlr. These 
particular Anjumans appoint paid agents, but much of 
the work of preaching in the bazaars is performed by 
persons who are engaged in some trade or business during 
the working hours of the day and devote their leisure time 
in the evenings to this pious work. 

Much of the missionary zeal of the Indian Musalmans is 
directed towards counteracting the anti-Islamic tendencies 
of the instruction given by Christian missionaries and 
the preachers of the Arya Samaj, and the efforts made 
are thus defensive rather than directly proselytising. 
Some preachers too turn their attention rather to the 
strengthening of the foundation already laid, and en- 
deavour to rid their ignorant co-religionists of their Hindu 
superstitions, and instil in them a purer form of faith, such 
efforts being in many cases the continuation of earlier mis- 
sionary activity. The work of conversion has indeed been 
often very imperfect. Of many, nominally Muslims, it may 
be said that they are half Hindus : they observe caste 
rules, they join in Hindu festivals and practise numerous 
idolatrous ceremonies. In certain districts also, e. g. in 
Mewat and Gurgaon, large numbers of Muhammadans may 
be found who know nothing of their religion but its name ; 
they have no mosques, nor do they observe the hours of 
prayer. This is especially the case among the Muhammadans 
of the villages or in parts of the country where they are 
isolated from the mass of believers; but in the towns the 
presence of learned religious men tends, in great measure, 
to counteract the influence of former superstitions, and makes 
for a purer and more intelligent form of religious life. In 
recent years, however, there has been, speaking generally, 
a movement noticeable among the Indian Muslims towards 

^ The Indian Evangelical Review, 1884, p. 128. Garciu de Tassy : La 
Langue et la Litterature Hindoustanies de 1850 k 1869, p. 485. (Paris, 1874.) 
Garcin de Tassy : La Langue et la Litterature Hindoustanies en 1871, p. 12. 
(Paris, 1872.) 


a religious life more strictly in accordance with the laws 
of Islam. The influence of the Christian mission schools has 
also been very great in stimulating among some Muhamma- 
dans of the younger generation a study of their own religion 
and in bringing about a consequent awakening of religious 
zeal. Indeed, the spread of education generally, has led 
to a more intelligent grasp of religious principles and to an 
increase of religious teachers in outlying and hitherto 
neglected districts. This missionary movement of reform 
(from whatever cause it may originate), may be observed 
in very different parts of India. In the eastern districts 
of the Panjab, for example, after the Mutiny, a great religious 
revival took place. Preachers travelled far and wide through 
the country, calling upon believers to abandon their idolatrous 
practices and expounding the true tenets of the faith. Now, 
in consequence, most villages, in which Muhammadans own 
any considerable portion, have a mosque, while the grosser 
and more open idolatries are being discontinued, ^ In 
Rajputana also, the Hindu tribes who have been from time 
to time converted to Islam in the rural districts, are now 
becoming more orthodox and regular in their religious 
observances, and are abandoning the ancient customs which 
hitherto they had observed in common with their idolatrous 
neighbours. The Merats, for example, now follow the 
orthodox Muhammadan form of marriage instead of the 
Hindu ritual they formerly observed, and have abjured 
the flesh of the wild boar,^ A similar revival in Bengal has 
already been spoken of above. 

Such movements and the efforts of individual missionaries 
are, however, quite inadequate to explain the rapid increase 
of the Muhammadans of India, and one is naturally led to 
inquire what are the causes other than the normal increase 
of population, 3 which add so enormously to their numbers. 
The answer is to be found in the social conditions of life 
among Hindus. The insults and contempt heaped upon 
the lower castes of Hindus by their co-religionists, and the 
impassable obstacles placed in the way of any member of 

^ Ibbetson, p. 184. 

* The Rajputana Gazetteer, vol. i. p. 90; vol. ii. p. 47. (Calcutta, 1879.) 
3 On these as they affect the Muhammadans, see the Census of India, 
1901. Vol. vi. p. 172. 


these castes desiring to better his condition, show up in 
striking contrast the benefits of a rehgious system which 
has no outcasts, and gives free scope for the indulgence of 
any ambition. In Bengal, for example, the weavers of 
cotton piece-goods, who are looked upon as vile by their 
Hindu co-religionists, embrace Islam in large numbers to 
escape from the low position to which they are otherwise 
degraded. 1 A very remarkable instance of a similar kind 
occurs in the history of the north-eastern part of the same 
province. Here in the year 1550 the aboriginal tribe of the 
Kocch established a dynasty under their great leader, Haju ; 
in the reign of his grandson, when the higher classes in the 
state were received into the pale of Hinduism, ^ the mass of 
the people finding themselves despised as outcasts, became 
Muhammadans . ^ 

The escape that Islam offers to Hindus from the oppression 
of the higher castes was strikingly illustrated in Tinnevelli 
at the close of the nineteenth century. A very low caste, 
the Shanars, had in recent years become prosperous and 
many of them had built fine houses ; they asserted that they 
had the right to worship in temples, from which they had 
hitherto been excluded. A riot ensued, in the course of which 
the Shanars suffered badly at the hands of Hindus of a higher 
caste, and they took refuge in the pale of Islam. Six hundred 
Shanars in one village became Muslims in one day, and their 
example was quickly followed in other places.* 

Similar instances might be given from other parts of 
India. A Hindu who has in any way lost caste and been 
in consequence repudiated by his relations and by the 
society of which he has been accustomed to move, would 
naturally be attracted towards a religion that receives all 
without distinction, and offers to him a grade of society 
equal in the social scale to that from which he has been 
banished. Such a change of religion might well be accom- 
panied with sincere conviction, but men also who might 
be profoundly indifferent to the number or names of the 

1 E. T. Dalton, p. 324. 

" For an account of such Hinduising of the aboriginal tribes see Sir 
Alfred Lyall : Asiatic Studies, pp. 102-4. * E. T. Dalton, p. 89. 

* The Missionary Review of the World, N. S. vol. xiii, pp. 72-3. (New 
York, 1900.) 


deities they were called upon to worship, would feel very 
keenly the social ostracism entailed by their loss of caste, and 
become Muhammadan without any religious feelings at all. 
The influence of the study of Muhammadan literature also, 
and the habitual contact with Muhammadan society, must 
often make itself insensibly felt. Among the Rajput princes 
of the nineteenth century in Rajputana and Bundelkhand, 
such tendencies towards Islamism were to be observed,^ 
tendencies which, had the Mu|^al empire lasted, would 
probably have led to their ultimate conversion. They not 
only respected Muhammadan saints, but had Muhammadan 
tutors for their sons; they also had their food killed in 
accordance with the regulations laid down by the Muham- 
madan law, and joined in the Muhammadan festivals dressed 
as faqirs, and praying like true behevers. On the other 
hand, it has been conjectured that the present position of 
affairs, under a government perfectly impartial in matters 
religious, is much more likely to promote conversions among 
the Hindus generally than was the case under the rule of the 
Muhammadan kingdoms, when Hinduism gained union and 
strength from the constant struggle with an aggressive 
enemy.2 Hindus, too, often flock in large numbers to the 
tombs of MusHm saints on the day appointed to commemorate 
them, and a childless father, with the feeling that prompts 
a polytheist to leave no God unaddressed, will present his 
petition to the God of the Muhammadans, and if children 
are born to him, apparently in answer to this prayer, the 
whole family will in such a case (and examples are not 
infrequent) embrace Islam. ^ 

1 Sir Alfred Lyall (Asiatic Studies, p. 29) speaks of the perceptible 
proclivity towards the faith of Islam occasionally exhibited by some of 
the Hindu chiefs. 

* Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, vol. i. p. xix. 

' To give one instance only : in Ghatampur, in the district of Cawnpore, 
one branch of a large family is Muslim in obedience to the vow of their 
ancestor, Ghatam Deo Bais, who while praying for a son at the shrine of a 
Muhammadan saint, Madar Shah, promised that if his prayer were granted, 
half his descendants should be brought up as MusUms. (Gazetteer of the 
N.W.P. vol. vi. pp. 64, 238.) 

The worship of Muhammadan saints is so common among certain low- 
caste Hindus that in the Census of 1891, in the North-Western Provinces 
and Oudh alone, 2,333,643 Hindus (or 5' 78 per cent, of the total Hindu 
population of these provinces) returned themselves as worshippers of 
Muhammadan saints. (Census of India, 1891, vol. xvi. part i. pp. 217, 244). 
(Allahabad, 1894.) 


Love for a Muhammadan woman is occasionally the 
cause of the conversion of a Hindu, since the marriage of a 
Muslim woman to an unbeliever is absolutely forbidden by 
the Muslim law. Hindu children, if adopted by wealthy 
Musalmans, would be brought up in the rehgion of their 
new parents ; and a Hindu wife, married to a follower of the 
Prophet, would be likely to adopt the faith of her husband. ^ 
As the contrary process can rarely take place, the number 
of Muhammadans is bound to increase in proportion to that 
of the Hindus. Hindus, who for some reason or other have 
been driven out of their caste; the poor who have become 
the recipients of Muhammadan charity, or women and 
children who have been protected when their parents have 
died or deserted them — (such cases would naturally be 
frequent in times of famine) — form a continuous though 
small stream of additions from the Hindus. ^ There are 
often local circumstances favourable to the growth of Islam ; 
for example, it has been pointed out ^ that in the villages of 
the Terai, in which the number of Hindus and Muhammadans 
happen to be equally balanced, any increase in the pre- 
dominance of the Muhammadans is invariably followed by 
disputes about the killing of cows and other practices offensive 
to Hindu feeling. The Hindus gradually move away from 
the village, leaving behind of their creed only the Chamar 
ploughman in the service of the Muhammadan peasants. 
These latter eventually adopt the religion of their masters, 
not from any conviction of its truth, but from the incon- 
venience their isolation entails. 

Some striking instances of conversions from the lower 
castes of Hindus are also found in the agricultural districts 
of ,Oudh. Although the Muhammadans of this province 
form only one-tenth of the whole population, still the small 
groups of Muhammadan cultivators form " scattered centres 
of revolt against the degrading oppression to which their 
religion hopelessly consigns these lower castes." * The 
advantages Islam holds out to such classes as the Koris 

^ Instances of such causes of conversion are given in the Census of India, 
1901. Vol. vi. Bengal, part, i. Appendix II. 

* Report on the Census of the N.W.P. and Oudh, 1881, by Edward White, 
p. 62. (Allahabad, 1882.) 

* Id. p. 63. * Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, vol. i. p. xix. 


and Chamars, who stand at the lowest level of Hindu society, 
and the deliverance which conversion to Islam brings them, 
may be best understood from the following passage descrip- 
tive of their social condition as Hindus. ^ " The lowest depth 
of misery and degradation is reached by the Korls and 
Chamars, the weavers and leather-cutters to the rest. Many 
of these in the northern districts are actually bond-slaves, 
having hardly ever the spirit to avail themselves of the 
remedy offered by our courts, and descend with their children 
from generation to generation as the value of an old purchase. 
They hold the plough for the Brahman or Chhattri master, 
whose pride of caste forbids him to touch it, and live with 
the pigs, less unclean than themselves, in separate quarters 
apart from the rest of the village. Always on the verge of 
starvation, their lean, black, and ill-formed figures, their 
stupid faces, and their repulsively filthy habits reflect the 
wretched destiny which condemns them to be lower than 
the beast among their fellow-men, and yet that they are far 
from incapable of improvement is proved by the active and 
useful stable servants drawn from among them, who receive 
good pay and live well under European masters. A change 
of religion is the only means of escape open to them, and they 
have little reason to be faithful to their present creed." 

It is this absence of class prejudices which constitutes the 
real strength of Islam in India, and enables it to win so many 
converts from Hinduism. 

To complete this survey of Islam in India, some account 
still remains to be given of the spread of this faith in Kashmir 
and thence beyond the borders of India into Tibet. Of all 
the provinces and states of India (with the exception of Sind) 
Kashmir contains the largest number of Muhammadans 
(namely 70 per cent.) in proportion to the whole population ; 
but unfortunately historical facts that should explain the 
existence in this state of so many Musalmans, almost entirely 
of Hindu or Tibetan origin, are very scanty. But all the 
evidence leads us to attribute it on the whole to a long- 
continued missionary movement inaugurated and carried 
out mainly by faqirs and dervishes, among whom were 
Isma'ilian preachers sent from Alamut.^ 

1 Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, vol. i. pp. xxiii-xxiv. 
* Khoja Vrttant, p. 141. 


It is difficult to say when this Islamising influence first 
made itself felt in the country. The first Muhammadan 
king of Kashmir, Sadr al-Din,i is said to have owed his 
conversion to a certain Darwesh Bulbul Shah in the early 
part of the fourteenth century. This saint was the only 
religious teacher who could satisfy his craving for religious 
truth when, dissatisfied with his own Hindu faith, he looked 
for a more acceptable form of doctrine. Towards the end 
of the same century (in 1388) the progress of Islam was most 
materially furthered by the advent of Sayyid 'Ali HamadanI, 
a fugitive from his native city of Hamadan in Persia, where 
he had incurred the wrath of Timiir. He was accompanied 
by 700 Sayyids, who established hermitages all over the 
country and by their influence appear to have assured the 
acceptance of the new religion. Their advent appears, 
however, to have also stirred up considerable fanaticism, as 
Sultan Sikandar (1393-1417) acquired the name of Butshikan 
from his destruction of Hindu idols and temples, and his 
prime minister, a converted Hindu, set on foot a fierce per- 
secution of the adherents of his old faith, but on his death 
toleration was again made the rule of the kingdom.^ 
Towards the close of the fifteenth century, a missionary, 
by name Mir Shams al-Din, belonging to a Shf ah sect, came 
from 'Iraq, and, with the aid of his disciples, won over a 
large number of converts in Kashmir. 

When under Akbar, Kashmir became a province of the 
Mughal empire, the Muhammadan influence was naturally 
strengthened and many men of learning came into the 
country. In the reign of Aurangzeb, the Rajput Raja of 
Kishtwar was converted by the miracles of a certain Sayyid 
Shah Farid al-Din and his conversion seems to have been 
followed by that of the majority of his subjects, and along 
the route which the Mughal emperors took on their pro- 
gresses into Kashmir we still find Rajas who are the descen- 
dants of Muhammadanised Rajputs.^ 

To the north and north-east of Kashmir, the provinces 
of Baltistan and Ladakh are inhabited by a mixed Tibetan 

^ Or Shams al-Din, according to another account, see Muhammad 
Haydar, p. 433 (n. 2). * Firishtah, vol. iv. pp. 464, 469. 

3 F. Drew : The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories, pp. 58, 155. (London, 



race, among whom Islam has been firmly estabhshed for 
several centuries, but the date and manner of its introduction 
is unknown. The Muhammadans of Baltistan tell of four 
brothers who came from Khurasan and brought about a 
revival of the faith, but appear to have no tradition regarding 
the earhest propagandists. ^ Up to the middle of the 
nineteenth century Islam appeared to be making progress, 
but this tendency was counteracted by the encouragement 
which Maharaja Ranbir Singh gave to the followers of 
the Buddhist faith. In Ladakh there are a number of 
half-castes, called Arghons,^ born of Tibetan mothers and 
Muhammadan fathers, traders who have come to Leh and 
persuaded the Tibetan women they marry to accept Islam. 
These Arghons are all Musalmans and, like their fathers, 
marry Tibetan wives ; they are said to be increasing in num- 
bers more rapidly than the pure Tibetan stock.^ Islam has 
also been carried into Tibet Proper by Kashmiri merchants. 
Settlements of such merchants are to be found in all the 
chief cities of Tibet ; they marry Tibetan wives, who often 
adopt the religion of their husbands ; and there are now said 
to be as many as 2000 Muhammadan famihes in Lhasa.* 
Islam has made its way into Tibet also from Yunnan, ^ and 
at Su-ching, on the border of the Sze-chwan province and 
Tibet, converts are being won from among the Tibetan 
inhabitants.^ Muhammadan influences are also said to have 
come from Persia ' and from Turkestan.^ 

1 Drew, op. cit. p. 359. 

^ On this word see Yule's Marco Polo, vol. i. p. 290. 

3 Ahmad Shah : Four years in Tibet, pp. 45, 74. (Benares, 1906.) 

* Broomhall, p. 206. Tu Wen-siu, the leader of the Panthay rebellion 
from 1856 to 1873, who for sixteen years was practically Sultan of half 
the province of Yunnan, issued a proclamation in Lhasa itself, at the outset 
of his revolt, in order to gain Muhammadan recruits. (Id. p. 132.) 

5 Mission d'Ollone, pp. 207, 226, 233. * Broomhall, p. 206. 

' A. Bastian : Die Geschichte der Indochinesen, p. 159. (Leipzig, 1866.) 

* R. du M. M., tome i, p. 275. (1907.) 



Tradition ascribes to Muhammad the saying, " Seek for 
knowledge, even unto China." ^ Though there is no histori- 
cal evidence for these words having ever been uttered by the 
Prophet, it is not impossible that the name of this country 
may have been known to him, for commercial relations 
between Arabia and China had been established long before 
his birth. It was through Arabia, in great measure, that 
Syria and the ports of the Levant received the produce of 
the East. In the sixth century, there was a considerable 
trade between China and Arabia by way of Ceylon, and at 
the beginning of the seventh century the commerce between 
China, Persia and Arabia was still further extended, the town 
of Siraf on the Persian Gulf being the chief emporium for 
the Chinese traders. It was at this period, at the commence- 
ment of the T'ang dynasty (618-907) that mention is first 
made of the Arabs in the Chinese Annals ; ^ they note the 
rise of the Muslim power in Medina and briefly describe the 
religious observances of the new faith. 

The Annals of Kwangtung thus record the coming of the 
first Muslims into China : — " At the beginning of the T'ang 
dynasty there came to Canton a large number of strangers, 
from the kingdoms of Annam, Cambodia, Medina and several 
other countries. These strangers worshipped heaven (i. e. 
God) and had neither statue, idol nor image in their temples. 
The kingdom of Medina is close to that of India, and it is in 
this kingdom that the religion of these strangers, which is 
different to that of Buddha, originated. They do not eat 
pork or drink wine, and they regard as unclean the flesh of 
any animal not killed by themselves. They are nowadays 

^ Kanz al-'Ummal, vol. v. p. 202. * Bretschneider (2), p. 6. 



called Hui Hui.^ . . . Having asked and obtained from the 
emperor permission to reside in Canton, they built magnifi- 
cent houses of a style different to that of our country. They 
were very rich and obeyed a chief chosen by themselves." ^ 
Though direct historical evidence is lacking,^ it is most 
probable that Islam was first introduced into China by- 
merchants who followed the old-established sea route. But 
the earliest record we can trust refers to diplomatic relations 
carried on by land, through Persia. When Yazdagird, the 
last Sasanid king of Persia, had perished, his son, Firiiz, 
appealed to China for help against the Arab invaders ; * but 
the emperor replied that Persia was too far distant for him 
to send the required troops. But he is said to have de- 
spatched an ambassador to the Arab court to plead the cause 
of the fugitive prince — probably also with instructions to 
ascertain the extent and power of the new kingdom that had 
arisen in the West, and the caliph 'Uthman is said to have sent 
one of the Arab generals to accompany the Chinese ambassa- 
dor on his return in 651, and this first Muslim envoy was 
honourably received by the emperor. In the reign of Walid 
(705-715), the famous Arab general, Qutaybah b. Muslim, 
having been appointed governor of Hiurasan, crossed the 
Oxus and began a series of successful campaigns, in which 
he successively subjugated BuMiara, Samarqand and other 
cities, and carried his conquests up to the eastern frontier 
of the Chinese empire. In 713 he sent envoys to the em- 
peror, who (according to Arab accounts) dismissed them with 
valuable presents. A few years later, the Chinese Annals 
make mention of an ambassador, named Sulayman, who 
came from the caliph Hisham in 726 to the Emperor Hsuan 
Tsung. These diplomatic relations between the Arab and 
the Chinese empires assumed a new importance at the close 
of this emperor's reign, when, driven from his throne by a 

^ On the origin of this name, see Deveria, p. 311; Mission d'Ollone, 
p. 420 sqq. * De Thiersant, vol. i. pp. 19-20. 

' D'Ollone gives the following warning as to the uncertainty of our 
knowledge of Islam in China : — " Or rien n'est moins connu que I'lslam 
chinois. On ne salt exactement ni comment il s'est propage dans I'Empire, 
ni combien d'adeptes il a reunis, ni si sa doctrine est pure, ni quelle est son 
organisation, ni s'il possede des relations avec le reste du monde musulman." 
(Mission d'Ollone, p. i.) The references to China in Arabic and Persian 
writers have been collected by Schefer, " Notice sur les relations des 
peuples musulmans avec les Chinois." * Chavannes, p. 172. 


usurper, he abdicated in favour of his son, Su Tsung (a.d. 
756). The latter sought the help of the 'Abbasid caliph, 
al-Mansiir, who responded to this appeal by sending a body 
of Arab troops, and with their assistance the emperor 
succeeded in recovering his two capitals, Si-ngan-fu and 
Ho-nan-fu, from the rebels. At the end of the war, these 
Arab troops did not return to their own country, but married 
and settled in China. Various reasons are assigned for this 
action on their part ; one account represents them as having 
returned to their native land but, being refused permission 
to remain on the ground that they had been so long in a 
land where pork was eaten, they went back again to China ; 
according to another account they were prepared to embark 
for Arabia, at Canton, when they were taunted with having 
eaten pork during their campaign, and in consequence they 
refused to return home and run the risk of similar taunts 
from their own people ; when the governor of Canton tried 
to compel them, they joined with the Arab and Persian 
merchants, their co-religionists, and pillaged the principal 
commercial houses in the city; the governor saved himself 
by taking refuge on the city wall, and was only able to return 
after he had obtained from the emperor permission for these 
Arab troops to remain in the country; houses and lands 
were assigned to them in different cities, where they settled 
down and intermarried with the women of the country.^ 

The Chinese Muhammadans have a legend that their faith 
was first preached in China by a maternal uncle of the 
Prophet, and his reputed tomb at Canton is highly venerated 
by them. But there is not the slightest historical base for 
this legend, and it appears to be of late growth. ^ It 
doubtless arose from a desire to connect the history of the 
faith in their own land as closely as possible with apostolic 
times — a fruitful source of legends in countries far removed 
from the centres of Muslim history.^ But of the existence 
of Muslims in China, especially of merchants in the port 

1 De Thiersant, vol, i. pp. 70-1. 

* This legend has been exhaustively discussed by Broomhall : Islam in 
China, cap. iv, vii. 

* Thus the people of Khotan claim that Islam was first brought to their 
land by Ja'far, a cousin of the Prophet (Grenard : Mission Dutreuil de 
Rhins, t. iii. p. 2), and the Chams of Cambodia ascribe their conversion to 
one of the fathers-in-law of Muhammad. (R. du M. M., vol. ii. p. 138.) 


towns, during the T'ang dynasty there is clear evidence. 
The Chinese annahst of this period (a.d. 713-742) says that 
" the barbarians of the West came into the Middle Kingdom 
in crowds, Hke a deluge, from a distance of at least 1000 
leagues and from more than 100 kingdoms, bringing as 
tribute their sacred books, which were received and de- 
posited in the hall set apart for translations of sacred and 
canonical books, in the imperial palace : from this period 
the religious doctrines of these different countries were thus 
diffused and openly practised in the empire of T'ang." ^ 
An Arab geographer, writing about the year 851, describes 
these settlements and the mosques which these merchants 
were allowed to build for their religious exercises ; ^ he states 
that he knew of no Chinaman having embraced Islam, but 
as he makes the same remark of the people of India, it may 
be that he was as ill-informed in the one case as the other.' 
But there is certainly no distinct evidence of any prosely- 
tising activity on the part of the Muslims in China, and 
indeed very little information about them at all until the 
period of Mongol conquests, in the thirteenth century. 
These conquests resulted in a vast immigration of Musalmans 
of various nationalities, Arabs, Persians, Turks and others 
into the Chinese empire.* Some came as merchants, 
artisans, soldiers or colonists, others were brought in as 
prisoners of war. A large number of them settled perma- 
nently in the country and developed into a populous and 
flourishing community, which gradually lost its original 
racial peculiarities through intermarriage with Chinese 
women. Several Muhammadans occupied high posts under 
the Mongol rulers, e. g. 'Abd al-Rahman, who in 1244 was 
appointed head of the Imperial finances and allowed to farm 
the taxes imposed upon China,^ and 'Umar Shams al-Din, 
commonly known as Sayyid A jail, a native of BuWiara, to 

^ De Thiersant, vol. i. p. 153. 

* Reinaud : Relation des Voyages faits par les Arabes et les Persans dans 
rinde et a la Chine, i. pp. 13, 64. (Paris, 1845.) 3 Id. p. 58. 

* That there was some migration westward also of Chinese into the 
conquered countries of Islam, where they would come within the sphere 
of its religious influence, we learn from the diary of a Chinese monk who 
travelled through Central Asia to Persia in the years 1221-4; speaking of 
Samarqand, he says, " Chinese workmen are living everywhere." (Bret- 
schneider (i), vol. i. p. 78.) ^ Howorth, vol. i. p. 161. 


whom Qubilay Hian, on his accession in 1259, entrusted 
the management of the Imperial finances; he was subse- 
quently governor of Yunnan, after this province had been 
conquered and added to the Chinese empire. ^ Sayyid A jail 
died in 1270, leaving behind him a reputation as an en- 
lightened and upright administrator; he built Confucian 
temples as well as mosques in Yunnan city.^ 

The descendants of Sayyid A jail played a great part in the 
establishing of Islam in China; it was his grandson who in 
1335 obtained from the emperor the recognition of Islam as 
the " True and Pure Religion " — a name which it has kept 
to the present day, — and another descendant of Sayyid A jail 
was authorised by the emperor in 1420 to build mosques in 
the capitals, Si-ngan-fu and Nan-kin.^ 

The Chinese historians of the reign of Qiibllay Hian make 
it a ground of complaint against this monarch that he did not 
employ Chinese officials in place of the immigrant Turks and 
Persians.* The exalted position occupied by Sayyid Ajall 
and the facilities of communication between China and the 
West established by Mongol conquest, attracted a number 
of such persons into the north of China, and it was probably 
as a result of these immigrations that those scattered 
Muhammadan communities began to be formed, which have 
grown to large proportions in most of the provinces of China. 
Marco Polo, who enjoyed the favour of Qiibilay Hian and 
lived in China from 1275 to 1292, notes the presence of 
Muhammadans in various parts of Yunnan,^ At the be- 
ginning of the fourteenth century, all the inhabitants of 
Talifu, the capital of Yunnan, are said by a contemporary 
historian to have been Musalmans; ^ and Ibn Batutah, who 
visited several coast towns in China towards the middle of 
the fourteenth century, speaks of the hearty welcome he 
received from his co-religionists,'^ and reports that " In every 
town there is a special quarter for the Muslims, inhabited 
solely by them, where they have their mosques; they are 
honoured and respected by the Chinese." ^ 

^ For Chinese biographies of Sayyid Ajall, see R. du M. M., viii. p. 344, 
sqq. and xi. p. 3 sqq. ; Mission d'Ollone, p. 25 sqq. ^ Broomhall, p. 127, 
^ Mission d'Ollone, pp. 435-6. * Howorth, vol. i. p. 257. 

^ Marco Polo, vol. i. pp. 219, 274; vol. ii. p. 66. 
* Rashid al-Din (Yule's Cathay, p. 9). 
' Vol. iv. pp. 270, 283. * Id. p. 258. 


Up to this period the Muhammadans appear to have been 
looked upon as a foreign community in China, but after the 
expulsion of the Mongol dynasty in the latter part of the 
fourteenth century they received no fresh addition to their 
numbers from abroad, in consequence of the policy of 
isolation which the Chinese government now adopted ; and 
being thus cut off from communication with their co- 
religionists in other countries, they tended, in most parts of 
the empire, gradually to become merged into the mass of the 
native population, through their marriages with Chinese 
women and their adoption of Chinese habits and manners. 
The founder of the new Ming dynasty, the emperor Hung- 
wu, extended to them many privileges, and their flourishing 
condition during the period that this dynasty lasted (1368- 
1644) is shown by the large number of mosques erected. 

The emperors of this dynasty cultivated friendly relations 
with the Muhammadan princes on their western frontier, 
and there was a frequent interchange of embassies between 
them and the Timiirid princes. One of these is of interest 
in the missionary history of Islam, inasmuch as Shah Rukh 
Bahadur in 141 2 took advantage of the arrival of a Chinese 
embassy at his court in Samarqand, to include in his answer 
an invitation to the emperor to embrace Islam. He sent 
with his envoy, who accompanied the Chinese ambassadors 
on their return, two letters, the first of which, written in 
Arabic, was to the following effect : — " In the name of God, 
the Merciful, the Compassionate. There is no god save God : 
Muhammad is the Apostle of God. The Apostle of God, 
Muhammad (peace be on him !) said : ' There shall not cease 
to be in my church a people abiding in the commandments 
of God ; whosoever fails to help them or opposes them, shall 
never prosper, until the commandment of the Lord cometh.' 
When the Most High God purposed to create Adam and his 
race, he said ' I was a hidden treasure, but it was my pleasure 
to become known ; I therefore created man that I might be 
known ' ; It is manifest from hence that the divine purpose 
(great is His power and exalted is His word !) in the creation 
of man was to make Himself known and uplift the banners of 
right guidance and faith. Wherefore He sent His Apostle 
with guidance and the religion of truth that it might prevail 


over all other faiths, though the polytheists turn away from 
it, that he might make known the laws and the ordinances 
and the observances of what is lawful and unlawful, and He 
gave him the holy Qur'an miraculously that thereby he 
might put to silence the unbelievers and stop their mouths 
when they discussed and disputed with him, and by His 
perfect grace and His all-pervading guidance He has caused 
it to remain even unto the day of judgment. By His power 
He hath established in all ages and times and in all parts of 
the world, in east and west, and in China, a mighty monarch, 
lord of great armies and authority, to administer justice and 
mercy and spread the wings of peace and security over the 
heads of men; to enjoin upon them righteousness and warn 
them against evil and disobedience and lift up among them 
the banners of the noble religion ; and he drives away idola- 
try and infidelity from among them through belief in the 
unity of God. The Most High God thus disposeth our hearts 
by His past mercies and His ensuing grace to strive for the 
stablishing of the laws of pure religion and the continuance 
of the ordinances of the shining path. He also bids us ad- 
minister justice to our subjects in all suits and cases in 
accordance with the religion of the Prophet and the ordin- 
ances of the Chosen One, and build mosques and colleges and 
monasteries and hermitages and places of worship, that the 
teaching of the sciences and the schools of learning may not 
cease nor the memorials and injunctions of religion be swept 
away. Seeing that the continuance of worldly prosperity 
and dominion, and the permanence of authority and rule 
depend upon the assistance given to truth and righteousness 
and the extirpation of the evils caused by idolatry and un- 
belief from the earth, in the expectation of blessing and 
reward, we, therefore, hope that your Majesty and the 
nobles of your realm will agree with us in these matters and 
join us in strengthening the foundations of the estabhshed 
law." The other letter, written in Persian, makes a more 
direct appeal, without the rhetorical embellishments of the 
Arabic : — " The Most High God, having in the depth of 
His wisdom and the perfection of His power created Adam 
(peace be upon him !), made some of his sons prophets and 
apostles and sent them among men to summon them to the 


truth. To certain of these prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, 
David and Muhammad (peace be upon them !) He gave a 
book and taught a law, and He bade the people of their time 
follow the law and the religion of each of them. All these 
apostles invited men to faith in the unity and to the worship 
of God and forbade the adoration of the sun, moon and stars, 
of kings and idols ; and though each one of these apostles 
had a separate law, yet they were all agreed in the doctrine 
of the unity of the Most High God. At length, when the 
apostolic and prophetic office devolved on the Apostle 
Muhammad Mustafa (the peace and blessing of God be upon 
him !) all other systems of law were abrogated. He was the 
apostle and the prophet of the latter age, and it behoves 
the whole world — lords and kings and ministers, rich and 
poor, small and great, — to observe his law and forsake all 
past creeds and laws. This is the true and perfect faith and 
is called Islam. Some years ago, Chingiz Hian took up 
arms and sent his sons into various countries and king- 
doms — Juji Hian to the confines of Saray, Qrim and 
Dasht Qafchaq, where some monarchs, such as Uzbek 
Hian, Chani Hian and Urus Hian, became Musalmans and 
observed the law of Muhammad (peace be upon him !). 
Hiilagii Hian was set over Khurasan. 'Iraq and the neigh- 
bouring countries, and some of his sons who succeeded 
him received into their hearts the light of the law of 
Muhammad (peace be upon him !), and in like manner 
became Musalmans, and honoured with the blessedness 
of Islam passed into the other world, such as the truthful 
king, Ghazan. and Uljaytu Sultan and the fortunate king, 
Abii Sa'Id Bahadur, until my honoured father. Amir Timiir 
Giirgan, succeeded to the throne. He too observed the law 
of Muhammad (peace be upon him !) in all the countries under 
his rule, and throughout his reign the followers of the faith 
of Islam enjoyed complete prosperity. Now that by the 
goodness and favour of God this Kingdom of Khurasan. 
'Iraq, Ma-wara'-al-nahr, etc., has passed into my hands, the 
administration is carried on throughout the whole kingdom 
in accordance with the pure law of the Prophet ; righteous- 
ness is enjoined and wrong forbidden, and the Yarghij 
and the institutes of Chingiz Khan have been abolished. 


Since, then, it is sure and certain that salvation and 
dehverance in the day of judgment, and sovereignty and 
fehcity in the present world, depend upon true faith and 
Islam, and the favour of the Most High God, it is incumbent 
upon us to treat our subjects with justice and equity. I 
hope that by the bounty and benevolence of God you too 
will observe the law of Muhammad, the Apostle of God 
(peace be upon him !) and strengthen the religion of Islam, 
so that you may exchange the transitory sovereignty of 
this world for the sovereignty of the world to come." ^ 

It is not improbable that these letters gave rise to the 
later legend of one of the Chinese emperors having become a 
convert to Islam. ^ This legend is referred to, among others, 
by a Muhammadan merchant, Sayyid 'Ali Akbar, who spent 
some years in Peking at the end of the fifteenth and the 
beginning of the sixteenth century; he speaks of the large 
number of Musalmans who had settled in China; in the 
city of Kenjanfu there were as many as 30,000 Muslim 
families ; they paid no taxes and enjoyed the favour of the 
emperor, who gave them grants of land; they enjoyed com- 
plete toleration for the exercise of their religion, which was 
favourably viewed by the Chinese, and conversions were 
freely permitted ; in the capital itself there were four great 
mosques and about ninety more in other provinces of the 
empire, — all erected at the cost of the emperor.^ 

Up to the establishment of the Manchu dynasty in 1644 
there is no record of any Muhammadan uprising, and the 
followers of Islam appear to have been entirely content with 
the religious liberty they enjoyed; but difficulties arose soon 
after the advent of the new ruling power, and an insurrection 
in the province of Kansu in 1648 was the first occasion on 
which any Muhammadans rose in arms against the Chinese 
government, though it was not until the nineteenth century 
that any such revolt entailed very disastrous consequences, 
or seriously interrupted the amicable relations that had 
subsisted from the beginning between the Chinese Muslims 

^ 'Abd al-Razzaq al-Samarqandi : Matla' al-sa'dayn, foil. 60-1. 
(Blochet, pp. 249-52.) 

/ Zenker, pp. 798-9. Melanges Orientaux, p. 65. (Publications de 
I'Ecole des Langues Orientales Vivantes, Ser. ii. t. 9.) (Paris, 1883.) 

' Schefer, pp. 29-30. Zenker, p. 796. 


and their rulers. The official view of the Chinese Govern- 
ment of these relations is set forth in an edict published 
by the emperor Yung Chen in 1731 : — " In every province 
of the empire, for many centuries past, have been 
found a large number of Muhammadans who form part 
of the people whom I regard as my own children just as 
I do my other subjects. I make no distinction between 
them and those who do not belong to their religion. 
I have received from certain officials secret complaints 
against the Muhammadans on the ground that their religion 
differs from that of the other Chinese, that they do not speak 
the same language, and wear a different dress to the rest of 
the people. They are accused of disobedience, haughtiness, 
and rebellious feelings, and I have been asked to employ 
severe measures against them. After examining these com- 
plaints and accusations, I have discovered that there is no 
foundation for them. In fact, the religion followed by the 
Musalmans is that of their ancestors; it is true their lan- 
guage is not the same as that of the rest of the Chinese, 
but what a multitude of different dialects there are in China. 
As to their temples, dress and manner of writing, which 
differ from those of the other Chinese — these are matters 
of absolutely no importance. These are mere matters of 
custom. They bear as good a character as my other sub- 
jects, and there is nothing to show that they intend to rebel. 
It is my wish, therefore, that they should be left in the free 
exercise of their religion, whose object is to teach men the 
observance of a moral life, and the fulfilment of social and 
civil duties. This religion respects the fundamental basis of 
Government, and what more can be asked for ? If then the 
Muhammadans continue to conduct themselves as good and 
loyal subjects, my favour will be extended towards them just 
as much as towards my other children. From among them 
have come many civil and military officers, who have risen 
to the very highest ranks. This is the best proof that they 
have adopted our habits and customs, and have learned to 
conform themselves to the precepts of our sacred books. 
They pass their examinations in literature just like every one 
else, and perform the sacrifices enjoined by law. In a word, 
they are true members of the great Chinese family and 


endeavour always to fulfil their religious, civil and political 
duties. When the magistrates have a civil case brought 
before them, they should not concern themselves with the 
religion of the litigants. There is but one single law for all 
my subjects. Those who do good shall be rewarded, and 
those who do evil shall be punished." ^ 

About thirty years later, his successor, the Emperor K'ien 
Lung, showed distinguished marks of his favour towards the 
Muhammadans by ennobling two Turk! Begs who had 
materially helped in suppressing a revolt in the north-west 
and Kashgar, and building palaces for them in Peking ; he also 
erected a mosque for the use of the Turki Begs who visited 
the Imperial court and for the prisoners of war who had been 
brought to the capital from Kashgar. Among these prisoners 
was a beautiful girl who became a favourite concubine of 
the emperor, and it is stated that for love of her he built 
this mosque immediately opposite his own palace and erected 
a pavilion within the palace grounds, from which the concu- 
bine could watch her fellow-countrymen at prayer and could 
join in their devotions. This mosque was built in the years 
1763-1764 and contains an inscription in four languages, the 
Chinese text of which was written by the emperor himself. ^ 

After crushing the revolt in Zungaria, this same emperor 
K'ien Lung, in 1770 transported thither from other parts of 
China ten thousand military colonists, who were followed by 
their families and other persons, to re-people the country, 
and they are all said to have embraced the religion of 
the surrounding Muhammadan population.^ Whether such 
mass conversions occurred in other parts of the empire also, 
we have no means of telling, but the existence of a consider- 
able Muhammadan population in every province of China 
can hardly be explained merely by reference to foreign immi- 
gration and the natural growth of population,^ though the 
numbers are larger in those provinces in which foreign 

1 De Thiersant, tome i. pp. 154-6. 

* Broomhall, p. 92 sqq. Deveria : Musulmans et Manich^ens chinois. 
(J. A. 9™« Ser., tome x. p. 447 sqq.) 

' De Thiersant, tome i. pp. 163-4. 

* The Muhammadans are said to be more prolific than the ordinary 
Chinese, and the Chinese census, which counts according to families, 
estimates six for a Muhammadan family and five for the ordinary Chinese. 
(Broomhall, pp. 197, 203.) 


Muhammadans have settled. ^ It is unlikely that the 
Muhammadans in China during the many centuries of their 
residence in this country, in the enjoyment of religious free- 
dom and the liberal patronage of several of the emperors, 
should have been entirely devoid of that proselytising zeal 
which modern observers have noted in their descendants at 
the present day.^ To such direct proselytising efforts must 
have been due the conversion of Chinese Jews to Islam; 
their establishment in this country dates from an early 
period, they held employments under the Government and 
were in possession of large estates ; but by the close of the 
seventeenth century a great part of them had been converted 
to Islam. ^ Such propaganda must have been quite quiet 
and unobtrusive, and indeed more public methods might 
have excited suspicions on the part of the Government, as 
is shown by an interesting report which was sent to the 
Emperor K'ien Lung in 1783 by a governor of the province 
of Khwang-Se. It runs as follows : "I have the honour 
respectfully to inform your Majesty that an adventurer 
named Han-Fo-Yun, of the province of Khwang-Se, has 
been arrested on a charge of vagrancy. This adventurer 
when interrogated as to his occupation, confessed that for 
the last ten years he had been travelling through the different 
provinces of the Empire in order to obtain information about 
his religion. In one of his boxes were found thirty books, 
some of which had been written by himself, while others 
were in a language that no one here understands. These 
books praise in an extravagant and ridiculous manner a 
Western king, called Muhammad. The above-mentioned 
Han-Fo-Yun, when put to the torture, at last confessed that 
the real object of his journey was to propagate the false 
religion taught in these books, and that he remained in the 
province of Shen-Si for a longer time than anywhere else. 
I have examined these books myself. Some are certainly 
written in a foreign language ; for I have not been able to 
understand them : the others that are written in Chinese 

^ Broomhall, in chap. xii. of his Islam in China, gives the total as between 
five and ten millions. D'OUone puts it as low as four millions (p. 430). 

* Vide infra, pp. 309-310. 

' Clark Abel: Narrative of a journey in the interior of China, p. 361. 
(London, 1818.) 


are very bad, I may add, even ridiculous on account of the 
exaggerated praise given in them to persons who certainly 
do not deserve it, because I have never even heard of 
them. Perhaps the above-mentioned Han-Fo-Yun is a rebel 
from Kan-Su. His conduct is certainly suspicious, for what 
was he going to do in the provinces through which he has 
been traveUing for the last ten years ? I intend to make a 
serious inquiry into the matter. Meanwhile, I would request 
your Majesty to order the stereotyped plates, that are in 
the possession of his family, to be burnt, and the engravers 
to be arrested, as well as the authors of the books, which I 
have sent to your Majesty desiring to know your pleasure in 
the matter." i 

This report bears testimony to the activity of at least one 
Muhammadan missionary in the eighteenth century, and 
the growth of Islam, which the Jesuit missionaries ^ noted in 
the eighteenth century, was probably not so little connected 
with direct proselytism as some of them supposed. Du Halde, 
in one of the few passages he devotes to the Muhammadans 
in his great work,^ attributes the increase in their numbers 
largely to their habit of purchasing children in times of 
famine. " The Mahometans have been settled for more 
than six hundred years in various provinces, where they live 
quite quietly, because they do not make any great efforts to 
spread their doctrines and gain proselytes, and because in 
former times they only increased in numbers by the alliances 
and marriages they contracted. But for several years past 
they have continued to make very considerable progress by 
means of their wealth. They buy up heathen children every- 
where ; and the parents, being often unable to provide them 
with food, have no scruples in selling them. During a 
famine that devastated the Province of Chantong, they 
bought more than 10,000 of them. They marry them, and 
either purchase or build for them separate quarters in a 
town, or even whole villages; gradually in several places 

^ De Thiersant, tome ii. pp. 361-3. 

^ One missionary, writing from Peking in 1721, says, " Le secte des 
Mahometans s'etend de plus en plus." (Lettres edifiantes et curieuses. 
tome xix. p. 140.) 

3 J. B. du Halde : Description geographique, historique, chronologique, 
politique et physique de I'Empire de la Chine, tome iii. p. 64. (Paris, 1735-) 


they gain such influence that they do not let any one hve 
among them who does not go to the mosque. By such 
means they have multiphed exceedingly during the last 
century, ' ' 

Similarly, in the famine that devastated the province of 
Kwangtung in 1790, as many as ten thousand children are 
said to have been purchased by the Muhammadans from 
parents who, too poor to support them, were willing to part 
with them to save them from starvation ; these were all 
brought up in the faith of Islam. ^ A Chinese Musalman, 
from Yunnan, named Sayyid Sulayman, who visited Cairo 
in 1894 and was there interviewed by the representative of 
an Arabic journal, ^ declared that the number of accessions 
to Islam gained in this way every year was beyond counting. 
Similar testimony is given by M. d'Ollone, who reports that 
this practice of buying children in times of famine prevails 
among the Muhammadans throughout the whole of China 
to the present day; in the same way, they purchased the 
children of Christian parents who were massacred by the 
Boxers in 1900, and brought them up as Musalmans.^ 

The Muhammadans in China tend to live together in 
separate villages and towns or to form separate Muhammadan 
quarters in the towns, where they will not allow any person 
to dwell among them who does not go to the mosque.* 
Though they thus in some measure hold themselves apart, 
they are careful to avoid the open exhibition of any specially 
distinguishing features of the religious observances of their 
faith, which may offend their neighbours, and they have 
been careful to make concessions to the prejudices of their 
Chinese fellow-countrymen. In their ordinary life they are 
completely in touch with the customs and habits that prevail 
around them ; they wear the pigtail and the ordinary dress 
of the Chinese, and put on a turban, as a rule, only in the 
mosque. To avoid offending against a superstitious pre- 
judice on the part of the Chinese, they also refrain from 
building tall minarets, wherever they build them at all.*^ 
But for the most part, their mosques conform to the Chinese 

^ Anderson, p. 151. Grosier, tome iv. p. 507. 

^ Thamarat al-Funun, 17th Shawwal, p. 3. (Bayrut, a.h. 131 i.) 

* Mission d'Ollone, p. 279. R. du M.M., tome ix. pp. 577, 578. 

* Broomhall, p. 226. Grosier, tome iv. p. 508. * Vasil'ev, p. 15. 


type of architecture, often with nothing to distinguish them 
from an ordinary temple or dwelHng.^ Every mosque is 
obhged by law to have a tablet to the emperor, with the 
inscription on it, " The emperor, the immortal, may he 
live for ever," and the Muhammadans prostrate themselves 
before it in accordance with the regular Chinese custom, 
though with various expedients to satisfy their consciences 
and avoid the imputation of idolatry. ^ Even in Chinese 
Tartary, where the special privilege is allowed to the Musal- 
man soldiers, of remaining unmixed, and of forming a 
separate body, the higher Muhammadan officials wear 
the dress prescribed to their rank, long moustaches and the 
pigtail, and on hohdays they perform the usual homage 
demanded from officials, to a portrait of the emperor, by 
touching the ground three times with their forehead. ^ 
Similarly all Muhammadan mandarins and other officials 
in other provinces perform the rites prescribed to their 
official position, in the temples of Confucius on festival days ; 
in fact every precaution is taken by the Muslims to prevent 
their faith from appearing to be in opposition to the state 
religion, and hereby they have succeeded in avoiding the 
odium with which the adherents of foreign religions, such 
as Judaism and Christianity are regarded. They even 
represent their rehgion to their Chinese fellow-countrymen 
as being in agreement with the teachings of Confucius, with 
only this difference, that they follow the traditions of their 
ancestors with regard to marriages, funerals, the prohibition 
of pork, wine, tobacco, and games of chance, and the washing 
of the hands before meals.* Similarly the writings of the 
Chinese Muhammadans treat the works of Confucius and 
other Chinese classics with great respect, and where possible, 
point out the harmony between the teachings contained 
therein and the doctrines of Islam. ^ 

The Chinese government, in its turn, has always given to 
its Muhammadan subjects (except when in revolt) the same 
privileges and advantages as are enjoyed by the rest of the 
population. No office of state is closed to them; and as 

1 Broomhall, p. 237. * Id. pp. 186, 228. 

3 Arminius Vamb^ry : Travels in Central Asia, p. 404. (London, 1864.) 

* Yasil'ev, p. 16. * De Thiersant, tome ii. pp. 367, 372. 


governors of provinces, generals, magistrates and ministers 
of state they enjoy the confidence and respect both of the 
rulers and the people. Not only do Muhammadan names 
appear in the Chinese annals as those of famous officers of 
state, whether military or civil, but they have also dis- 
tinguished themselves in the mechanical arts and in sciences 
such as mathematics and astronomy.^ 

The Chinese Muhammadans are also said to be keen men 
of business and successful traders ; they monopolise the beef 
trade and carry on other trades with great success. ^ They 
are thus in touch with every section of the national life and 
have every opportunity for carrying on a propaganda, but 
the few Christian missionaries who have concerned them- 
selves with this matter are of opinion that they are not 
animated with any particular proselytising zeal.^ Still, many 
recent converts are to be met with, and the fact that a large 
number of Chinese Muslims can cite the name of the particu- 
lar ancestor who first embraced Islam points to a continuous 
process of conversion.* Apparently the Muslims are not 
allowed to preach their faith in the streets, as Protestant 
missionaries do,^ but (as we have seen above) ^ they do not 
fail to make use of such opportunities as present themselves 
for adding to the number of their sect. One of their religious 
text-books, " A Guide to the Rites of the True Religion " 
(published in Canton in 1668), commends the work of prose- 
lytising and makes reference to such as may have recently 
become converts from among the heathen.' The funda- 
mental doctrines of Islam are taught to the new converts 
by means of metrical primers,^ and to the influence of the 
religious books of the Chinese Muslims, Sayyid Sulayman 
attributes many of the conversions made in recent years. ^ 
The Muslim seminary at Hochow in Kansu is said to train 
theological students who return to their several provinces, 
at the completion of their studies, to promulgate their faith 
there, ^° and in upwards of ten provinces centres are said to 

^ De Thiersant, tome i. p. 247. Thamarat al-Funun, 28th Sha'ban, p. 3. 

2 Broomhall, p. 224. ' Du Halde, loc. cit. Broomhall, p. 282, 

* Mission d'Ollone, pp. 210, 431, ^ Broomhall, pp. 274, 282, 
® p. 307. ' Broomhall, pp. 231-2. 

* W. J. Smith, p. 175. Mission d'Ollone, p. 407 sqq. 

* Thamarat al-Funiin, loc. cit. ^^ Broomhall, p. 240. 


have been started where mullas are to be trained for Muslim 
propaganda. 1 Mihtary officers convert many of the soldiers 
serving under them, to Islam, and Muslim mandarins take 
advantage of the authority they enjoy, to win converts, 
but as they are frequently transferred from one place to 
another, they are not able to exercise so much influence as 
Muslim military officers. ^ Conversions may also occasion- 
ally occur, which are not the result of a direct propagandist 
appeal, e. g. a Turkish traveller who visited Peking in 1895 
reported that he found thirty mosques there, among them 
one that had originally been a temple; this had been the 
family temple of a wealthy Chinaman, whose hfe had been 
saved during the Boxer insurrection by the Mufti Wa- 
Ahonad ('Abd al-Rahman) ; as a token of his gratitude, he 
embraced the faith of his deliverer. ^ 

Turkish and other Muslim missionaries have in recent 
years been visiting China and endeavouring to stir up among 
the Chinese Muslims a more thorough knowledge of their 
faith and to awaken their zeal, but their efforts seem so far 
to have borne but little fruit.* 

In 1867 a Russian writer,^ in a remarkable work on Islam 
in China, expressed the opinion that it was destined to 
become the national faith of the Chinese empire and thereby 
entirely change the political conditions of the Eastern world. 
Nearly half a century has elapsed since this note of alarm 
was sounded, but nothing has occurred since to verify these 
prognostications. On the contrary, it would appear that 
Islam has been losing rather than gaining ground during the 
last century, since the wholesale massacres that accompanied 
the suppression of the Panthay risings in Yunnan from 1855 
to 1873 and the Tungan rebellion in Shen-si and Kan-su in 
1864-1877 and 1895-1896, reduced the Muhammadan popula- 
tion by milhons.^ The establishment of the new Repubhc has 
given to the Chinese Muslims a freedom of activity unknown 
under any preceding government, but it is too early yet to 
discover how far they are likely to avail themselves of the 

1 The Missionary Review of the World, vol. xxv. p. 786 (1912). 

2 Mission d'Ollone, p. 431. ^ R. du M. M., iii. p. 124 (1907). 
* Broomhall, pp. 242, 286, 292 sqq. ^ Vasil'ev, pp. 3, 5, 14, 17. 

« For a longer list ol Muhammadan insurrections, see Mission d'Ollone, 
P- 436. 


opportunities offered by the altered conditions of life. The 
proselytism that still goes on, restricted as its sphere may be, 
indicates a still cherished hope of expansion. Though four 
centuries have elapsed since a Muslim traveller ^ in China 
could discuss the possibility of the conversion of the emperor 
being followed by that of his subjects, it was still possible for 
a Chinese Muslim of the present generation to state that his 
co-religionists in that country looked forward with confidence 
to the day when Islam would be triumphant throughout 
the length and breadth of the Chinese empire. ^ 

^ Sayyid 'Ali Akbar : Hiitay Namah, p. 83. " If the emperor of China 
embraces Islam, his subjects must inevitably become Muslims too, because 
they all worship him to such an extent that they accept whatever he says, 
and when that light coming from the West grows in strength, the un- 
believers of the East will come flocking into Islam without showing any 
contention, because they are free from all fanaticism in matters of religion." 

2 Thamarat al-Funun, 26th Shawwal, p. 3. (a.h. 131 i.) 



The history of Islam in Africa, covering as it does a period 
of well-nigh thirteen centuries and embracing two-thirds of 
this vast continent, with its numerous and diverse tribes 
and races, presents especial difficulties in the way of system- 
atic treatment, as it is impossible to give a simultaneous 
account in chronological order of the spread of this faith in 
all the different parts of the continent. Its relations to the 
Christian Churches of Egypt and the rest of North Africa, 
of Nubia and Abyssinia have already been dealt with in a 
former chapter; in the present chapter it is proposed to 
trace its progress first among the heathen population of 
North Africa, then throughout the Sudan and along the 
West coast, and lastly along the East coast and in Cape 

The information we possess of the spread of Islam among 
the heathen population of North Africa is hardly less meagre 
than the few facts recorded above regarding the disappear- 
ance of the Christian Church. The Berbers offered a 
vigorous resistance to the progress of the Arab arms, and 
force seems to have had more influence than persuasion in 
their conversion. Whenever opportunity presented itself, 
they rebelled against the religion as well as the rule of their 
conquerors, and Arab historians declare that they apostasised 
as many as twelve times. ^ In the annals of the long struggle 
a few scanty references to conversions are to be found. 
These would appear sometimes to have been prompted 
by the recognition of the fact that further resistance to the 

^ An excellent map of the extent of Islam in Africa is to be found in 
" The International Review of Missions," vol. i. p. 652. 
* Fournel, vol. i. p. 271. 



Arab arms was useless. When in 703 the Berbers made their 
last stand against the invaders, their intrepid leader and 
prophetess, al-Kahinah,^ foreseeing that the fortune of battle 
was to turn against them, sent her sons into the camp of the 
Muslim general with instructions that they were to embrace 
Islam and make common cause with the enemy ; she herself 
elected to fall fighting with her countrymen in the great 
battle that crushed the political power of the Berbers and 
gave Northern Africa into the hands of the Arabs. Peace 
was made on condition that the Berbers would furnish 12,000 
combatants to the ranks of the Arab troops, and of these 
men two army-corps were formed, each of which was placed 
under the command of one of the sons of al-Kahinah.^ 
By this device of enlisting the Berbers in their armies, the 
Arab generals hoped to win them to their own religion by 
the hope of booty. 

The army of seven thousand Berbers that sailed from 
Africa in 711 under the command of Tariq (himself a Berber) 
to the conquest of Spain, was composed of recent converts 
to Islam, and their conversion is expressly said to have been 
sincere : learned Arabs and theologians were appointed, 
" to read and explain to them the sacred words of the 
Qur'an, and instruct them in all and every one of the duties 
enjoined by their new religion." ^ Musa, the great con- 
queror of Africa, showed his zeal for the progress of Islam 
by devoting the large sums of money granted him by the 
cahph 'Abd al-Malik to the purchase of such captives as 
gave promise of showing themselves worthy children of the 
faith : "for whenever after a victory there was a number of 
slaves put up for sale, he used to buy all those whom he 
thought would willingly embrace Islam, who were of noble 
origin, and who looked, besides, as if they were active young 
men. To these he first proposed the embracing of Islam, 
and if, after cleansing their understanding and making them 
fit to receive its sublime truths, they were converted to the 
best of religions, and their conversion was a sincere one, 
he then would, by way of putting their abilities to trial, 
employ them. If they evinced good disposition and talents 

^ i. e. the diviner or priestess ; her real name is unknown. 
"^ Fournel, vol, ;. p. 22^, * Makkari, vol. ;. p, 2^3. 


he would instantly grant them liberty, appoint them to 
high commands in his army, and promote them according 
to their merits ; if, on the contrary, they showed no aptitude 
for their appointments, he would send them back to the 
common depot of captives belonging to the army, to be 
again disposed of according to the general custom of drawing 
out the spoil by arrows." ^ 

How superficial the conversion of the Berbers was may be 
judged from the fact that when the pious 'Umar b. 'Abd 
al-'Aziz in A.H. lOO (a.d. 718) appointed Isma'il b. 'Abd 
Allah governor of North Africa, ten learned theologians were 
sent with him to instruct the Muslim Berbers in the ordin- 
ances of their faith, since up to that time they do not seem to 
have recognised that their new religion forbade to them in- 
dulgence in wine. The new governor is said to have shown 
great zeal in inviting the Berbers to accept Islam, but the 
statement that his efforts were crowned with such success 
that not a single Berber remained unconverted is certainly 
not correct. 2 For the conversion of the Berbers was un- 
doubtedly the work of several centuries ; even to the present 
day they retain many of their primitive institutions which 
are in opposition to Muslim law.^ Islam took no firm root 
among them until it assumed the form of a national move- 
ment and became connected with the establishment of 
native dynasties, under which many Berbers came within 
the pale of Islam who before had looked upon the acceptance 
of this faith as a sign of loss of political independence. Of 
these various changes of political condition it is not the 
place to speak here, but in a history of Muslim propaganda 
the rise of the Almoravids deserves special mention as a 
great national movement that attracted a great many of the 
Berber tribes to join the Muslim community. In the early 
part of the eleventh century, Yahyg. b. Ibrahim, a chief 
of the Sanhaja, one of the Berber tribes of the Sahara, on 
his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca, sought in the religious 
centres of Northern Africa for a learned and pious teacher, 
who should accompany him as a missionary of Islam to his 

^ Makkari, vol. i. p. Ixv. ^ Fournel, vol. i. p. 270. 

' For these and the heretical movements that reveal survivals of the 
earlier Berber faith, see Goldziher, Materialen zur Kenntniss der Almo- 
h^denbewegung in Nordafrika (Z D M G, vol. xU, p. 37 sqq.), 


benighted and ignorant tribesmen : at first he found it 
difficult to find a man wilhng to leave his scholarly retreat 
and brave the dangers of the Sahara, but at length he met in 
'Abd Allah b. Yasin the fit person, bold enough to under- 
take so difficult a mission, pious and austere in his life, and 
learned in theology, law and other sciences. So far back 
as the ninth century the preachers of Islam had made their 
way among the Berbers of the Sahara and established 
among them the religion of the Prophet, but this faith had 
found very little acceptance there, and 'Abd Allah b. Yasin 
found even the professed Muslims to be very lax in their 
religious observances and given up to all kinds of vicious 
practices. He ardently threw himself into the task of 
converting them to the right path and instructing them in 
the duties of religion; but the sternness with which he 
rebuked their vices and sought to reform their conduct, 
alienated their sympathies from him, and the ill-success of 
his mission almost drove him to abandon this stiff-necked 
people and devote his efforts to the conversion of the Sudan. 
Being persuaded, however, not to desert the work he had 
once undertaken, he retired with such disciples as his 
preaching had gathered around him, to an island in the 
river Senegal, where they founded a monastery and gave 
themselves up unceasingly to devotional exercises. The 
more devout-minded among the Berbers, stung to repentance 
by the thought of the wickedness that had driven their holy 
teacher from their midst, came humbly to his island to 
implore his forgiveness and receive his instructions in the 
saving truths of religion. Thus day by day there gathered 
around him an increasing band of disciples, especially from 
among the Lamtiina, a branch of the Sanhaja clan, whose 
numbers swelled at length to about a thousand. 'Abd 
Allah b. Yasin then recognised that the time had come for 
launching out upon a wider sphere of action, and he called 
upon his followers to show their gratitude to God for the 
revelation he had vouchsafed them, by communicating the 
knowledge of it to others : " Go to your fellow-tribesmen, 
teach them the law of God and threaten them with His 
chastisement. If they repent, amend their ways and accept 
the truth, leave thein jn peace ; if they refuse and persist 


in their errors and evil lives, invoke the aid of God against 
them, and let us make war upon them until God decide 
between us." Hereupon each man went to his own tribe 
and began to exhort them to repent and believe, but without 
success : equally unsuccessful were the efforts of 'Abd 
Allah b. Yasln himself, who left his monastery in the hope 
of finding the Berber chiefs more willing now to listen to his 
preaching. At length in 1042 he put himself at the head 
of his followers, to whom he had given the name of al- 
Murabitin (the so-called Almoravids) — a name derived 
from the same root as the ribat ^ or monastery on his island 
in the Senegal, — and attacked the neighbouring tribes and 
forced the acceptance of Islam upon them. The success 
that attended his warlike expeditions appeared to the tribes 
of the Sahara a more persuasive argument than all his 
preaching, and they very soon came forward voluntarily to 
embrace a faith that secured such brilliant successes to 
the arms of its adherents. 'Abd Allah b. Yasin died in 
1059, but the movement he had initiated lived after him 
and many heathen tribes of Berbers came to swell the 
numbers of their Muslim fellow-countrymen, embracing 
their religion at the same time as the cause they championed, 
and poured out of the Sahara over North Africa and later 
on made themselves masters of Spain also.^ 

It is not improbable that the other great national move- 
ment that originated among the Berber tribes, viz. the rise 
of the Almohads at the beginning of the twelfth century, 
may have attracted into the Mushm community some 
of the tribes that had up to that time still stood aloof. 
Their founder, Ibn Tumart, popularised the sternly 
Unitarian tenets of this sect by means of works in the Berber 
language which expounded from his own point of view 
the fundamental doctrines of Islam, and he made a still 
further concession to the nationalist spirit of the Berbers 
by ordering the call to prayer to be made in their own 

Some of the Berber tribes, however, remained heathen up 

1 On this word, see Doutte, Notes sur I'lslam maghribin. (Revue de 
I'histoire des religions, torn. xli. p. 24-6.) 

"^ Ibn abi Zar', pp. 168-73. A. Miiller, vol. ii. pp. 611-13, 
3 Ibn abi Zar', p. 250, Goldziher, op. laud., p. 71, 


to the close of the fifteenth century/ but the general tendency 
was naturally towards an absorption of these smaller 
communities into the larger. 

The sixteenth century witnessed the birth of a movement 
of active proselytising in the Maghrib, which has been traced 
to the reaction excited by the successes of the Christian 
powers in Spain and North Africa. This gave an immense 
impulse to the institution of the " marabouts," ^ and large 
numbers of them set out from the monastic settlements in 
the south of Morocco to carry a peaceful missionary campaign 
throughout the Ma gh rib, renewing the faith of the lukewarm 
adherents of Islam and converting their heathen neighbours.^ 
To this proselytising movement the Muslim refugees from 
Spain contributed their part, as has been shown above 
(p. 127), coming to the aid of the Shurafa' or descendants of 
Idris b. 'Abd Allah, who had fled to Morocco to escape the 
wrath of Harun al-Rashld.* 

From the Sahara the knowledge of Islam first spread 
among the Negroes of the Sudan. The early history of 
this movement is wrapped in obscurity, but there seems 
little doubt that it was the Berbers who first introduced 
Islam into the lands watered by the Senegal and the Niger ; 
here they came in contact with pagan kingdoms, some of 
them (e. g. Ghana and Songhay) of great antiquity.^ The 
two Berber tribes, the Lamtiina and the Jadala, belonging 
to the Sanhaja clan, especially distinguished themselves 
by their religious zeal in the work of conversion,^ and 
through their agency the Almoravid movement reacted on 
the pagan tribes of the Sudan. The reign of Yusuf b. 
Tashfin, the founder of Morocco (a.d. 1062) and the second 
amir of the Almoravid dynasty, was very fruitful in con- 
versions, and many Negroes under his rule came to know of 
the doctrines of Muhammad.' In 1076 the Berbers who 

^ Leo Africanus. (Ramusio, torn. i. p. ii.) ^ hj\j^- 

3 Doutte, xl. p. 354; xli. pp. 26-7. * Depont et Coppolani, p. 127 sq. 

^ It is not the place here to deal with the rise and political history of the 
various kingdoms of the Western Sudan; this has been done most fully 
for the English reader by Lady Lugard in her work entitled, " A Tropical 
Dependency. An Outline of the Ancient History of the Western Sudan, 
with an Account of the Modern Settlement of Northern Nigeria." (London, 
1905.) See also H. F. Helmolt : The World's History, vol. iii. chap. ix. 
(London, 1903.) • Blau, p. 322. 

' Leo Africanus. (Ramusio, torn. i. pp. 7, 77.) 


had been spreading Islam in the kingdom of Ghana for 
some time, drove out the reigning dynasty, which was 
probably Fulbe, and this ancient kingdom became through- 
out Muhammadan; at the beginning of the thirteenth 
century it lost its independence and was conquered by the 

Of the introduction of Islam into the ancient kingdom of 
Songhay, which is said to have been in existence as early as 
A.D. 700, we have only the record that the first Muhammadan 
king was named Za-kassi, the fifteenth monarch of the Za 
dynasty; his conversion took place in the year a.h. 400 
(a.d. 1009-1010), and in the Songhay language he was 
styled Muslim-dam, which implied that he had adopted 
Islam of his own free will and not by compulsion, but 
there is no mention of the influences to which he owed his 

In the same century there were founded on the Upper 
Niger two cities, destined in succeeding centuries to exercise 
an immense influence on the development of Islam in the 
Western Sudan, — Jenne,^ founded in a.h. 435 (a.d. 1043- 
1044),* and destined to become an important trading centre, 
and Timbuktu, the great emporium for the caravan trade with 
the north, founded about the year a.d. iioo. The king of 
Jenne, Kunburu, became a Muslim towards the end of the 
sixth century of the Hijrah (i. e. about A.D, 1200) and his 
example was followed by the inhabitants of the city ; when 
he had made up his mind to embrace Islam, he is said to 
have collected together all the 'ulama' in his kingdom, to 
the number of 4200 — (however exaggerated this number 
may be, the story would seem to imply that Islam had 
already made considerable progress in his dominions) — and 
publicly in their presence declared himself a Muslim and 
exhorted them to pray for the prosperity of his city; he 
then had his palace pulled down and built a great mosque ^ 
in its place.® Timbuktu, on the other hand, was a Muham- 

1 Meyer, p. gi- ^ Ta'rikh al-Sudan, p. 3. 

^ Jinni or Dienne. 

* So Meyer following Earth ; the Ta'riUi al-Sudan (p. 12) places the date 
about three centuries earlier. 

* Felix Dubois gives a plan and reconstruction of this mosque, which 
was destroyed by order of Shaykhu Ahmadu about 1830, in " Tombouctou 
la Mysterieuse," chap. ix. « Ta'rildi al-Sudan, pp. 12-13. 


madan city from the beginning; " never did the worship of 
idols defile it, never did any man prostrate himself on its 
soil except in prayer to God the Merciful." ^ In later years 
it became influential as a seat of Muhammadan learning and 
piety, and students and divines flocked there in large 
numbers, attracted by the encouragement and patronage 
they received. Ibn Batiitah, who travelled through this 
country in the middle of the fourteenth century, praises the 
Negroes for their zeal in the performance of their devotions 
and in the study of the Qur'an : unless one went very early 
to the mosque on Friday, he tells us, it was impossible to 
find a place, so crowded was the attendance.^ In his time, 
the most powerful state of the Western Sudan was that of 
Melle or Malli, which had risen to importance about a century 
before, after the conquest of Ghana by the Mandingos, one 
of the finest races of Africa : Leo Africanus ^ calls them the 
most civilised, the most intellectual and most respected of 
all the Negroes, and modern travellers praise them for their 
industry, cleverness and trustworthiness.* These Mandingos 
have been among the most active missionaries of Islam, 
which has been spread by them among the neighbouring 

According to the Kano Chronicle it was the Mandingos 
who brought the knowledge of Islam to the Hausa people; 
the date is uncertain,^ as are most dates connected with 
the history of the Hausa states, because the Fulbe, who 
conquered them at the beginning of the nineteenth century, 
destroyed most of their historical records. But the import- 
ance of the adoption of Islam by the Hausas cannot be 
exaggerated; they are an energetic and intelligent people, 
and their remarkable aptitude for trade has won for them 

^ Ta'rikh al-Sudan, p. 21. 2 j^j^ Batutah, tome iv. pp. 421-2. 

^ Ramusio, torn. i. p. 78. 

* Winwood Reade describes them as " a tall, handsome, light-coloured 
race, Moslems in religion, possessing horses and large herds of cattle, but 
also cultivating cotton, ground-nuts, and various kinds of corn. I was 
much pleased with their kind and hospitable manners, the grave and 
decorous aspect of their women, the cleanliness and silence of their villages." 
(W. Winwood Reade : African Sketchbook, vol. i. p. 303.) 

5 Waitz, II« Theil, pp. 18-19. 

* Palmer (p. 59) places its introduction into Kano between a.d. 1349 
and 1385, another Hausa chronicle makes the reign of the first Muhammadan 
king of Zozo begin about 1456. (Journal of the African Society, vol. ix. 
p. 161.) 


an immense influence among the various peoples with whom 
they have come in contact ; their language has become the 
language of commerce for the Western Sudan, and wherever 
the Hausa traders go — and they are found from the coast 
of Guinea to Cairo — they carry the faith of Islam with them. 
References to their missionary activity will be found in the 
following pages. But of their own adoption of the faith, 
as well as of the rise of the seven Hausa states and their 
dependencies,^ historical evidence is almost entirely wanting ;2 
one of the missionaries of Islam to Kano and Katsena would 
certainly seem to have been a learned and pious teacher from 
Tlemsen, Muhammad b. 'Abd al - Karim b. Muhammad 
al-Majill, who flourished about the year 1500 ; ^ possibly 
they were affected by the great wave of Muhammadan 
influence which moved southward from Egypt in the 
twelfth century."* The merchants of Kordofan and in the 
Eastern Sudan generally, boast that they are descended 
from Arabs who made their way thither after the fall of the 
Fatimid cahphate of Egypt in 1171. But there were 
probably still earlier instances of Muslim influence coming 
into Central Africa from the north-east. It was from Egypt 
that Islam spread into Kanem, a kingdom on the N. and 
N.E. of Lake Chad, which shortly after the adoption of Islam 
rose to be a state of considerable importance and extended 
its sway over the tribes of the Eastern Sudan to the borders 
of Egypt and Nubia ; the first Muhammadan king of Kanem 
is said to have reigned either towards the close of the eleventh 
or in the first half of the twelfth century.^ But the details 
we possess of the spread of Islam from the north-east are 
even more scanty than those already given for the history 
of the states of the Western Sudan. The mere dates of the 

1 For the various enumerations of these, see Meyer, p. 27. 

* As in other parts of the Mushm world, tradition places the first intro- 
duction of Islam in the lifetime of the founder and gives the name of al- 
Fazazi, a reputed companion of the Prophet, as the apostle of the Hausa 
people. (J. Lippert : Sudanica. MSOS, iii. part 3, p. 204. (Berlin, 1900.) 

^ Mischlich and Lippert, pp. 138-9. 

* Meyer, loc. cit. Artin Pasha (p. 62) puts the beginning of this infiltra- 
tion of Muslim Arabs as early as the eighth century. 

^ Becker, Geschichte des ostlichen Sudan, p. 162-3. Blau, p. 322. 
Oppel, p. 289. At the close of the fourteenth century 'Umar b. Idris 
moved his capital to the west of Lake Chad in the territory of Bornu, by 
which name the kingdom of Kanem became henceforth known. 


conversion of kings and the establishment of Muhammadan 
dynasties tell us very little ; but one fact stands out clearly 
from this meagre record, namely the extreme slowness of 
the process. The survival of considerable groups of fetish- 
worshippers in the midst of territories which for centuries 
were under Muhammadan rule, would seem to indicate that 
the influence of Islam was long confined to the towns and 
only by degrees made its way among the pagan population, 
if indeed it did not meet with such stubborn resistance as 
has kept the Bambara pagan, though (dwelling between the 
Upper Senegal and the Upper Niger) they have been hemmed 
in by a Muhammadan population for centuries. 

An unsuccessful attempt to convert the Bambara was 
made by a marabout, named 'Umaru Kaba, early in the 
twentieth century. This man had founded a new religious 
confraternity, connected with the Qadiriyyah, and having 
failed to attract his co-religionists to it, he turned his 
attention to the pagan Bambara, and endeavoured to con- 
vert them to Islam and enrol them in his order. He seemed 
to be on the road to success and had already converted a 
pagan village in the province of Sansanding, when the chief 
of the province drove the missionary across the frontier 
and ordered the newly-converted Bambara to return to 
their old religious observances. ^ 

Where intermarriages with such races as Arabs and 
Berbers have been frequent, a steady process of infiltration 
has gone on, and this, added to the propagandist activities 
of those races — Fulbe, Hausa and Mandingo — who have 
distinguished themselves for their zeal on behalf of their 
religion, would have contributed to the more rapid growth 
of a Muhammadan population, had it not been for the 
internecine wars that caused one Muhammadan state to 
work the destruction of another. Melle rose on the ruins 
of Ghana in the thirteenth century, to be crushed at the 
beginning of the sixteenth by Songhay, which in its turn 
was desolated by the Moors a century later. As these 
Muhammadan empires declined, with the wholesale mas- 
sacres characteristic of warfare in the Sudan, fetishism 
regained much of the ground it had lost; and as in the 

^ Maurice Delafosse, p. 87. 


Christian, so in the Muhammadan world, there have been 
periods when missionary zeal has sunk to a low ebb, and 
Muhammadans in some parts of the Sudan have been content 
to leave the paganism that surrounded them untouched by 
any proselytising efforts. 

In the fourteenth century the Tun jar Arabs, emigrating 
south from Tunis, made their way through Bornu and Wadai 
to Darfur ; others came in later from the east ; ^ one of 
their number named Ahmad met with a kind reception from 
the heathen king of Darfur, who took a fancy to him, made 
him director of his household and consulted him on all 
occasions. His experience of more civilised methods of 
government enabled him to introduce a number of reforms 
both into the economy of the king's household and the 
government of the state. By judicious management, he is 
said to have brought the unruly chieftains into subjection, 
and by portioning out the land among the poorer inhabitants 
to have put an end to the constant internal raids, thereby 
introducing a feeling of security and contentment before 
unknown. The king having no male heir gave Ahmad his 
daughter in marriage and appointed him his successor, — 
a choice that was ratified by the acclamation of the people, 
and the Muhammadan dynasty thus instituted has con- 
tinued down to the present century. The civilising influences 
exercised by this chief and his descendants were doubtless 
accompanied by some work of proselytism, but these Arab 
immigrants seem to have done very little for the spread 
of their religion among their heathen neighbours. Darfur 
only definitely became Muhammadan through the efforts 
of one of its kings named Sulayman who began to reign in 
1596,2 and it was not until the sixteenth century that Islam 
gained a footing in the other kingdoms lying between 
Kordofan and Lake Chad, such as Wadai and Baghirmi. 
The first Muhammadan king of Baghirmi was Sultan 'Abd 
Allah, who reigned from 1568 to 1608, but the chief centre 
of Muhammadan influence at this time was the kingdom 
of Wadai, which was founded by 'Abd al-KarIm about A.D. 
1612, and it was not until the latter part of the eighteenth 

^ Becker : Geschichte des ostlichen Sudan, pp. 161-2. 
* R. C. Slatin Pasha : Fire and Sword in the Sudan, pp. 38, 40-2. 
(London, 1896.) 


century that the mass of the people of Baghirmi were 
converted to Islam. ^ 

But the history of the Muhammadan propaganda in 
Africa during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is 
very slight and wholly insignificant when compared with the 
remarkable revival of missionary activity during the present 
century. Some powerful influence was needed to arouse 
the dormant energies of the African Muslims, whose con- 
dition during the eighteenth century seems to have been 
almost one of religious indifference. Their spiritual awaken- 
ing owed itself to the influence of the Wahhabi reformation 
at the close of the eighteenth century ; whence it comes that 
in modern times we meet with some accounts of proselytis- 
ing movements among the Negroes that are not quite so 
forbiddingly meagre as those just recounted, but present 
us with ample details of the rise and progress of several 
important missionary enterprises. 

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, a remarkable 
man, Shayldi 'Uthman Danfodio,^ arose from among the 
Fulbe ^ as a religious reformer and warrior-missionary. 
From the Sudan he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, whence 
he returned full of zeal and enthusiasm for the reformation 
and propagation of Islam. Influenced by the doctrines of 
the Wahhabis, who were growing powerful at the time of 
his visit to Mecca, he denounced the practice of prayers for 
the dead and the honour paid to departed saints, and depre- 
cated the excessive veneration of Muhammad himself; at 
the same time he attacked the two prevailing sins of the 
Sudan, drunkenness and immorality. 

Up to that time the Fulbe had consisted of a number of 
small scattered clans living a pastoral life ; they had earlj^' 
embraced Islam, and hitherto had contented themselves 
with forming colonies of shepherds and planters in different 
parts of the Sudan. The accounts we have of them in the 
early part of the eighteenth century, represent them to be 
a peaceful and industrious people ; one ■* who visited their 

1 Westermann, p. 628. 

2 Oppel, p. 292. Meyer, pp. 36-7. Westermann, pp. 629-30. 

^ Fulbe (sing. Pul) is the name by which these people call themselves; 
upwards of a hundred variants are applied to them by their neighbours, 
the commonest of which are Fulah and Fulani. (Meyer, p. 28.) 

* Francis Moore, pp. 75-7. 


settlements on the Gambia in 173 1 speaks of them thus : 
" In every kingdom and country on each side of the river 
are people of a tawny colour, called Pholeys (i.e. Fulbe), 
who resemble the Arabs, whose language most of them 
speak; for it is taught in their schools, and the Koran, 
which is also their law, is in that language. They are more 
generally learned in the Arabic, than the people of Europe 
are in Latin ; for they can most of them speak it ; though 
they have a vulgar tongue called Pholey. They live in 
hordes or clans, build towns, and are not subject to any of 
the kings of the country, tho' they live in their territories ; 
for if they are used ill in one nation they break up their 
towns and remove to another. They have chiefs of their 
own, who rule with such moderation, that every act of 
government seems rather an act of the people than of one 
man. This form of government is easily administered, 
because the people are of a good and quiet disposition, and 
so well instructed in what is just and right, that a man who 
does ill is the abomination of all. . . . They are very 
industrious and frugal, and raise much more corn and cotton 
than they consume, which they sell at reasonable rates, and 
are so remarkable for their hospitality that the natives 
esteem it a blessing to have a Pholey town in their neigh- 
bourhood; besides, their behaviour has gained them such 
reputation that it is esteemed infamous for any one to treat 
them in an inhospitable manner. Though their humanity 
extends to all, they are doubly kind to people of their own 
race ; and if they know of any of their body being made a 
slave, all the Pholeys will unite to redeem him. As they have 
plenty of food they never suffer any of their own people to 
want ; but support the old, the blind, and the lame, equally 
with the others. They are seldom angry, and I never heard 
them abuse one another ; yet this mildness does not proceed 
from want of courage, for they are as brave as any people 
of Africa, and are very expert in the use of their arms, which 
are the assagay, short cutlasses, bows and arrows and even 
guns upon occasion. . . . They are strict Mahometans; 
and scarcely any of them will drink brandy, or anything 
stronger than water." 

Danfodio united into one powerful organisation these 


separate communities, scattered throughout the various 
Hausa states. The first outbreak occurred in the year 1802, 
in the still pagan kingdom of Gober, which had gained 
ascendancy over the northernmost of the Hausa states; 
the attempt of the king of Gober to check the growing power 
of the Fulbe in his dominions caused Danfodio to raise the 
standard of revolt ; he soon found himself at the head of a 
powerful army, which attacked not only the pagan tribes, 
forcing upon them the faith of the Prophet, but also the 
Muhammadan Hausa states. These fell one after another 
and the whole of Hausaland came under the rule of Danfodio 
before his death in 1816. His grave in Sokoto is still an 
object of reverence to large numbers of pilgrims. He divided 
his kingdom among his two sons, who still further extended 
the boundary of Fulbe rule; Adamaua, founded in 1837 on 
the ruins of several pagan kingdoms, marks the limit of 
their conquests to the south-east ; and the city of Ilorin, in 
the Yoruba country, founded in the lifetime of Danfodio, 
was the bulwark of the Pul empire to the south-west. With 
varying fortunes the dominant power remained throughout 
the nineteenth century in the hands of the Fulbe, who showed 
themselves cruel and fanatical propagandists of Islam, until 
British administration was established in Nigeria in 1900. 
The introduction of law and order into Southern Nigeria 
has favoured the propaganda of Islam as in other parts of 
Africa that have come under European rule. The Hausa 
Muslims, some of whom belong to the Tijaniyyah order, 
have been able to move freely about the country and to 
penetrate among pagan tribes which had hitherto kept all 
Muhammadan influences rigidly at bay. In the Yoruba 
country particularly Islam is said to be rapidly gaining 
ground. There is a legend of an unsuccessful attempt made 
by a Muslim missionary as early as the eleventh or twelfth 
century; he was a Hausa who came to Ife, the rehgious 
capital of the pagan Yoruba country, and used to call the 
people together and read them passages from the Qur'an ; 
he could only speak the Yoruba language imperfectly, and 
with a foreign accent he would repeat to his listeners, " Let 
us worship Allah : He created the mountain. He created the 
lowland, He created everything, He created us." He did 


this from time to time without succeeding in winning a 
single convert, and died a few months after his arrival in 
Ife. After his death his Qur'an was found hanging on a 
peg in the wall of his room, and it came to be worshipped as 
a fetish. 1 Where this early apostle of the faith failed, his 
modern co-rehgionists have achieved a remarkable success. 
During the period of anarchy before the British occupation, 
the Muslims were for the most part congregated in large, 
walled towns, but under the new conditions of security 
they are able to reside permanently in villages, and near 
the scenes of their agricultural labours, and Muhammadan 
influences have thus become more widely extended over the 
country. As in German East Africa, the presence of 
Muhammadans among the native troops has been found to 
be favourable to the extension of their faith, and the pagan 
recruits often adopt Islam in order to escape ridicule and 
gain in self-respect. 2 In the Ijebu country also, in Southern 
Nigeria, a quite recent propagandist movement has been 
observed ; Islam was only introduced into this part of the 
country in 1893, and in 1908 there was one town with 
twenty, and another with twelve mosques.^ This rapid 
spread of the Muslim faith is particularly noticeable along 
the banks of the river Niger in Southern Nigeria ; a Christian 
missionary reports : " When I came out in 1898 there were 
few Mohammedans to be seen below Iddah.* Now they 
are everywhere, excepting below Abo, and at the present 
rate of progress there will scarcely be a heathen village on 
the river-banks by 1910." ^ 

There has thus been much missionary work done for 
Islam in this part of Africa by men who have never taken 
up the sword to further their end, — the conversion of the 
heathen. Such have been the members of some of the great 
Muhammadan religious orders, which form such a prominent 
feature of the rehgious life of Northern Africa. Their efforts 
have achieved great results during the nineteenth century, 

^ R. E. Dennett : Nigerian Studies, pp. 12, 75. (London, 1910.) 

- Islam and Missions, pp. 71-3. The Moslem World, pp. 296-7, 351. 

•' Church Missionary Review (igo8), p. 640. 

* A town on the Niger, just south of the northern boundary of Southern 

* Church Missionary Society Intelligencer (1902), p. 353. 


and though doubtless much of their work has never been 
recorded, still we have accounts of some of the movements 
initiated by them. 

Of these one of the earliest owed its inception to 
Si Ahmad b. Idrls.i who enjoyed a wide reputation as 
a religious teacher in Mecca from 1797 to 1833, and 
was the spiritual chief of the Khadriyyah ; before his 
death in 1835 he sent one of his disciples, by name 
Muhammad 'Uthman al-AmIr Ghani. on a proselytising 
expedition into Africa. Crossing the Red Sea to Kossayr, 
he made his way inland to the Nile ; here, among a Muslim 
population, his efforts were mainly confined to enrolling 
members of the order to which he belonged, but in his 
journey up the river he did not meet with much success 
until he reached Aswan ; from this point up to Dongola, his 
journey became quite a triumphant progress ; the Nubians 
hastened to join his order, and the royal pomp with which 
he was surrounded produced an impressive effect on this 
people, and at the same time the fame of his miracles 
attracted to him large numbers of followers. At Dongola 
Muhammad 'Uthman left the valley of the Nile to go to 
Kordofan, where he made a long stay, and it was here 
that his missionary work among unbelievers began. Many 
tribes in this country and about Sennaar were still pagan, 
and among these the preaching of Muhammad 'Uthman 
achieved a very remarkable success, and he sought to make 
his influence permanent by contracting several marriages, 
the issue of which, after his death in 1853, carried on the 
work of the order he founded — called after his name the 
Amlr gh aniyyah.^ 

A few years before this missionary tour of Muhammad 
'Uthman, the troops of Muhammad 'AH, the founder of the 
present dynasty of Egypt, had begun to extend their 
conquests into the Eastern Sudan, and the emissaries of the 
various religious orders in Egypt were encouraged by the 
Egyptian government, in the hope that their labours would 
assist in the pacification of the country, to carry on a 
propaganda in this newly-acquired territory, where they 
laboured with so much success, that the recent insurrection 

^ Rinn, pp. 403-4. * Le Chatelier (i), pp. 231-3. 


in the Sudan under the Mahdi has been attributed to the 
rehgious fervour their preaching excited. ^ 

In the West of Africa two orders have been especially 
instrumental in the spread of Islam, the Qadiriyyah and 
the Tijaniyyah. The former, the most widespread of the 
rehgious orders of Islam, was founded in the twelfth century 
by 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilanl, said to be the most popular and 
most universally revered of all the saints of Islam, ^ — and 
was introduced into Western Africa in the fifteenth century, 
by emigrants from Tuat, one of the oases in the western 
half of the Sahara; they made Walata the first centre of 
their organisation, but later on their descendants were driven 
away from this town, and took refuge in Timbuktu, further 
to the east. In the beginning of the nineteenth century 
the great spiritual revival that was so profoundly influencing 
the Muhammadan world, stirred up the Qadiriyyah of the 
Sahara and the Western Sudan to renewed life and energy, 
and before long, learned theologians or small colonies of 
persons afhhated to the order were to be found scattered 
throughout the Western Sudan from the Senegal to the 
mouth of the Niger. The chief centres of their missionary 
organisation are in Kanka, Timbo (Futah-Jallon) and 
Musardu (in the Mandingo country). ^ These initiates 
formed centres of Islamic influence in the midst of a 
pagan population, among whom they received a welcome 
as pubhc scribes, legists, writers of amulets, and school- 
masters : gradually they would acquire influence over 
their new surroundings, and isolated cases of conversion 
would soon grow into a httle band of converts, the most 
promising of whom would often be sent to complete their 
studies at the chief centres of the order, or even to the schools 
of Kairwan or Tripoh, or to the universities of Fez and 
al-Azhar in Cairo.* Here they might remain for several 
years, until they had perfected their theological studies, and 
would then return to their native place, fully equipped for 
the work of spreading the faith among their fellow-country- 
men. In this way a leaven has been introduced into the 
midst of fetish- worshippers and idolaters, which has gradually 

1 Le Chatelier {2), pp. 89-91. 2 Rinn, p. 175. 

^ Bonet-Maury, p. 239. ■* Id. p. 230. 


spread the faith of Islam surely and steadily, though by 
almost imperceptible degrees. Up to the middle of the 
nineteenth century most of the schools in the Sudan were 
founded and conducted by teachers trained under the 
auspices of the Qadiriyyah and their organisation provided 
for a regular and continuous system of propaganda among 
the heathen tribes. The missionary work of this order 
has been entirely of a peaceful character, and has relied 
wholly on personal example and precept, on the influence 
of the teacher over his pupils, and on the spread of educa- 
tion. ^ In this way the Qadiriyyah missionaries of the Sudan 
have shown themselves true to the principles of their 
founder and the universal tradition of their order. For the 
guiding principles that governed the life of 'Abd al-Qadir 
were love of his neighbour and toleration : though kings 
and men of wealth showered their gifts upon him, his 
boundless charity kept him always poor, and in none of his 
books or precepts are to be found any expressions of ill-wiU 
or enmity towards the Christians ; whenever he spoke of 
the people of the Book, it was only to express his sorrow for 
their religious errors, and to pray that God might enlighten 
them. This tolerant attitude he bequeathed as a legacy 
to his disciples, and it has been a striking characteristic of 
his followers in all ages, 2 

The Tijaniyyah, belonging to an order founded in Algiers 
towards the end of the eighteenth century, have, since their 
establishment in the Sudan about the middle of the nine- 
teenth century, pursued the same missionary methods as the 
Qadiriyyah, and their numerous schools have contributed 
largely to the propagation of the faith; but, unlike the 
former, they have not refrained from appealing to the sword 
to assist in the furtherance of their scheme of conversion, 
and, unfortunately for a true estimate of the missionary 
work of Islam in Western Africa, the fame of their Jihads 
or religious wars has thrown into the shade the successes of 
the peaceful propagandist, though the labours of the latter 
have been more effectual towards the spread of Islam than 
the creation of petty, short-lived dynasties. The records 
of campaigns, especially when they have interfered with the 

^ Le Chatelier (2), pp. 100-9. * Rinn, p. 174. 


commercial projects or schemes of conquest of the white 
men, have naturally attracted the attention of Europeans 
more than the unobtrusive labours of the Muhammadan 
preacher and schoolmaster. But the history of such move- 
ments possesses this importance, that — as has often hap- 
pened in the case of Christian missions also — conquest has 
opened out new fields for missionary activity, and forcibly 
impressed on the minds of the faithful the existence of 
large tracts of country whose inhabitants still remained 

The first of these militant propagandist movements on the 
part of the members of the Tijaniyyah order owes its 
inception to al-Hajj 'Umar, who had been initiated into this 
order by a leader of the sect whose acquaintance he made in 
Mecca. He was born in 1797, near Podor on the Lower Senegal, 
and appears to have been a man of considerable endowments 
and personal influence, and of a commanding presence. He 
was the son of a marabout and received a careful religious 
education ; he was already famed for his learning and piety 
when he set out on the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1827. He 
did not return to his own country until 1833, when he com- 
menced an active propaganda of the teaching of the Tija- 
niyyah order, fiercely attacking his co-religionists for their 
ignorance and their lukewarmness, especially the adepts of 
the Qadiriyyah order, whose toleration particularly excited 
his wrath. He traversed the Central Sudan, winning many 
adherents and receiving honour as a new prophet, until 
about 1841 he reached Futah-Jallon, where he armed his 
followers and commenced a series of proselytising expeditions 
against those tribes that still remained pagan about the 
Upper Niger and the Senegal. It was in one of these expedi- 
tions that he met his death in 1865. His son, Ahmadu 
Shaykhu. succeeded in holding together the various provinces 
of his father's kingdom for a few years only ; internal con- 
flicts and the advance of the French broke up the Tija- 
niyyah empire, and their territories passed under the rule 
of France.^ 

Some mention has already been made of the introduction 
of Islam into this part of Africa. The seed planted here 

^ Oppel, pp. 292-3. Blyden, p. lo. Le Chatelier (3), p. 167 sqq. 


by 'Abd Allah b. Yasln and his companions, was fructified 
by continual contact with Muhammadan merchants and 
teachers, and with the Arabs of the oasis of al-Hawd and 
others, A traveller of the fifteenth century tells how the 
Arabs strove to teach the Negro chiefs the law of Muhammad, 
pointing out how shameful a thing it was for them, being 
chiefs, to live without any of God's laws, and to do as the 
base folk did who lived without any law at all. From which 
it would appear that these early missionaries took advantage 
of the imposing character of the Muslim religion and con- 
stitution to impress the minds of these uncivilised savages.^ 
We have ampler details of a more recent movement of the 
same kind, which had been set on foot in the south of Sene- 
gambia by a Mandingo, named Samudu, commonly known 
by the name Samory, a pagan soldier of fortune born about 
1846, who became a Muhammadan early in the course of his 
career and founded an empire, south of Senegambia, in the 
country watered by the upper basin of the Niger and its 
tributaries. An Arabic account of the career of Samory, 
written by a native chronicler, gives us some interesting 
details of his achievements. It begins as follows : " This 
is an account of the Jihad of the Imam Ahmadu Samudu, a 
Mandingo. . . . God conferred upon him His help con- 
tinually after he began the work of visiting the idolatrous 
pagans, who dwell between the sea and the country of 
Wasulu, with a view of inviting them to follow the religion 
of God, which is Islam. Know all ye who read this — 
that the first effort of the Imam Samudu was a town 
named Fulindiyah. Following the Book and the Law 
and the Traditions, he sent messengers to the king at 
that town, Sindidu by name, inviting him to submit to 
his government, abandon the worship of idols and worship 
one God, the Exalted, the True, whose service is profit- 
able to His people in this world and in the next ; but 
they refused to submit. Then he imposed a tribute upon 
them, as the Qur'an commands on this subject; but they 
persisted in their blindness and deafness. The Imam then 
collected a small force of about five hundred men, brave and 

1 Delle Navigationi di Messer Alvise da Ca da Mosto. (a.d. 1454.) 
Ramusio, tome i. p. loi. 


valiant, for the Jihad, and he fought against the town, and 
the Lord helped him against them and gave him the victory 
over them, and he pursued them with his horses until they 
submitted. Nor will they return to their idolatry, for now 
all their children are in schools being taught the Qur'an, 
and a knowledge of religion and civilisation. Praise be to 
God for this," ^ It is not possible here to trace the 
course of his conquests, which were marked by whole- 
sale massacres and devastation. ^ He reached the height 
of his power about 1881, shortly after which he came 
in conflict with the French, who took him prisoner in 
1898 after a series of harassing campaigns. He died 
in 1900. Though the effect of his conquests was the 
destruction of large numbers of pagans who were massacred 
by his ruthless armies, while others were terrified into 
a nominal acceptance of Islam, he does not appear 
to have put before him the same distinctly religious 
aim as al-Hajj 'Umar did.^ He left to the Qadiriyyah 
marabouts the task of propaganda, and they with their 
accustomed traditions of toleration are said to have done 
much to mitigate the savagery of his proceedings.* They 
opened schools in the conquered towns, established there 
the organisation of their order, and both instructed the new 
converts and sought to win fresh ones. 

With regard to these mihtant movements of Muham- 
madan propagandism, it is important to notice that it is 
not the military successes and territorial conquests that have 
most contributed to the progress of Islam in these parts; 
for it has been pointed out that, outside the limits of those 
fragments of the empire of al-Hajj 'Umar that have defini- 
tively remained in the hands of his successors, the forced 
conversions that he made have quickly been forgotten, and 
in spite of the momentary grandeur of his successes and 
the enthusiasm of his armies, very few traces remain of 
this armed propaganda. ^ The real importance of these 

1 Blyden, pp. 357-60. 

^ This has been set forth in detail by Le Chateher (3), p. 225 sqq. 

^ Le Chateher (3), p. 237. " Samory n'intervint pas directement dans 
la question religieuse." L. G. Binger arrived at the same conclusion, as 
the result of personal acquaintance with Samory. (Le Peril de I'lslam, 
p. 20.) (Paris, 1906.) * Le Chatelier (3), pp. 238-40. 

* Le Chateher (2), p. 112. R. du M. M., vol. xii. p. 22. 


movements in the missionary history of Islam in Western 
Africa is the rehgious enthusiasm they stirred up, which 
exhibited itself in a widespread missionary activity of a 
purely peaceful character among the heathen populations. 
These Jihads, rightly looked upon, are but incidents in the 
modern Islamic revival and are by no means characteristic 
of the forces and activities that have been really operative 
in the promulgation of Islam in Africa : indeed, unless 
followed up by distinctly missionary efforts they would 
have proved almost wholly ineffectual in the creation of a 
true Muslim community. In fact, the devastating wars and 
cruel violence of conquerors such as al-Hajj 'Umar and 
Samory and especially the emissaries of the Tijaniyyah have 
caused the faith of Islam to be bitterly hated by the pagan 
tribes of the Sudan in the countries watered by the Senegal 
and the Niger. Hostility to the Muslim faith has almost 
assumed with them the form of a national movement, but 
still this Muhammadan propaganda has spread the faith of 
the Prophet in many parts of Guinea and Senegambia, to 
which the Fulbe ^ and merchants from the Hausa country 
in their frequent trading expeditions have brought the 
knowledge of their religion, and have succeeded during 
the last and the present century in winning large numbers 
of converts. Especially noteworthy is the activity of 
those Qadiriyyah preachers and Muslim traders who have 
won fresh converts to their faith since the French occupation 
has brought peace to the country ; this peaceful penetration 
has been facilitated in the French Sudan, as in other parts 
of Africa that have recently come under the sway of Euro- 
pean powers, by the consideration shown by French officials 
to the educated classes, who are of course all Muham- 
madans, and by the open contempt with which the 
degraded habits and superstitions of the pagan fetish- 
worshippers are regarded. ^ 

But the proselytising work of the order that is now to be 
described has never in any way been connected with violence 
or war and has employed in the service of religion only the 

1 " The Fulanis are all fervent Mohammedans. Wherever there are 
Fulanis there will be found a mosque." (Haywood, p. 200.) 

2 Le ChateUer (3), pp. 231, 273, 303. Westermann, pp. 632-3. 


arts of peace and persuasion. In 1837 a religious society 
was founded by an Algerian jurisconsult, named Sidi 
Muhammad b. 'All al-Saniisi, with the object of reforming 
Islam and spreading the faith; before his death in 1859, 
he had succeeded in establishing, by the sheer force of his 
genius and without the shedding of blood, a theocratic state, 
to which his followers render devoted allegiance and the 
limits of which are every day being extended by his suc- 
cessors.^ The members of this sect are bound by rigid rules 
to carry out to the full the precepts of the Qur'an in accord- 
ance with the most strictly monotheistic principles, whereby 
worship is to be given to God alone, and prayers to saints 
and pilgrimages to their tombs are absolutely interdicted. 
They must abstain from coffee and tobacco, avoid all inter- 
course with Jews or Christians, contribute a certain portion 
of their income to the funds of the society, if they do not 
give themselves up entirely to its service, and devote all 
their energies to the advancement of Islam, resisting at the 
same time any concessions to European influences. This 
sect is spread over the whole of North Africa, having religious 
houses scattered about the country from Egypt to Morocco, 
and far into the interior, in the oases of the Sahara and the 
Sudan. The centre of its organisation was in the oasis of 
Jag^abub ^ in the Libyan desert between Egypt and Tripoli, 
where every year hundreds of missionaries were trained and 
sent out as preachers of Islam to all parts of northern 
Africa. It is to the religious house in this village that all 
the branch establishments (said to be 121 in number) 
looked for counsel and instruction in all matters concern- 
ing the management and extension of this vast theocracy, 
which embraced in a marvellous organisation thousands 
of persons of numerous races and nations, otherwise 
separated from one another by vast differences of geographi- 
cal situation and worldly interests. For the success that 
has been achieved by the zealous and energetic emissaries 

^ Muhammad b. 'Uthman al Hasha'ishi, p. 84 sqq. 

* In 1895 Sidi al-Mahdi, the son and successor of Sidi Muhammad al- 
Sanvisi, migrated to Kufra, as being more central than Ja g habub (Muham- 
mad b. 'Uthman al-Hasha'ishi, pp. 111-15), but later went further south 
to the region of Borku and Tibesti, where he died in 1902. The head of the 
order in 1908 was Sidi Ahmad, a relative of the founder. (J. C. E. Falls : 
Drei Jahre in der Libyschen Wiiste, p. 274.) (Freiburg, 191 1.) 


of this association is enormous; convents of the order are 
to be found not only all over the north of Africa from Egypt 
to Morocco, throughout the Sudan, in Senegambia and 
Somaliland, but members of the order are to be found also 
in Arabia, Mesopotamia and the islands of the Malay Archi- 
pelago.^ Though primarily a movement of reform in the 
midst of Islam itself, the Saniisiyyah sect is also actively 
proselytising, and several African tribes that were previously 
pagan or merely nominally Muslim, have since the advent 
of the emissaries of this sect in their midst, become zealous 
adherents of the faith of the Prophet. Thus, for example, 
the SaniJsi missionaries laboured to convert that portion 
of the Baele (a tribe inhabiting the hill country of Ennedi, 
E. of Borku) which was still heathen, and communicated 
their own religious zeal to such other sections of the tribe 
as had only a very superficial knowledge of Islam, and were 
Muhammadan only in name ; ^ the Tedas of Tu or Tibesti, 
in the Sahara, S. of Fezzan, who were likewise Muham- 
madans only in name when the Saniisiyyah came among 
them, also bear witness to the success of their efforts.^ 
The missionaries of this sect also carry on an active propa- 
ganda in the Galla country and fresh workers are sent 
thither every year from Harar, where the Saniisiyyah are 
very strong and include among their numbers all the chiefs 
in the court of the Amir almost without exception.* In the 
furtherance of their proselytising efforts these missionaries 
open schools, form settlements in the oases of the desert, 
and — noticeably in the case of the Wadai — they have gained 
large accessions to their numbers by the purchase of slaves, 
who have been educated at Jaghabiib and when deemed 
sufficiently well instructed in the tenets of the sect, enfranch- 
ised and then sent back to their native country to convert 
their brethren,^ It would appear, however, that the in- 
fluence of this order is now on the decline.^ 

1 Riedel (i), pp. 7, 59, 162. 

* G. Nachtigal : Sahara und Sudan, vol. ii. p. 175. (Berlin, 1879-81.) 

* Duveyrier, p. 45. * Paulitschke, p. 214. 

^ H. Duveyrier : La Confrerie musulmane de Sidi Mohammed Ben 'All 
Es-Senousi, passim. (Paris, 1886.) Louis Rinn : Marabouts et Khouans, 
pp. 481-513. N. Slousch : Les Senoussiya en Tripolitaine. (R. duM. M., 
vol. i. p. 169 sqq.). For a bibliography of the Sanusiyyah movement, see 
Der Islam, iii. pp. 141-2, 312. 

* R. du M. M., vol. i. p. 181 ; vol. viii. pp. 64-5. 


Slight as these records are of the missionary labours of the 
Muslims among the pagan tribes of the Sudan, they are of 
importance in view of the general dearth of information 
regarding the spread of Islam in this part of Africa. But 
while documentary evidence is wanting, the Muhammadan 
communities dwelling in the midst of fetish-worshippers 
and idolaters, as representatives of a higher faith and civilisa- 
tion, are a living testimony to the proselytising labours 
of the Muhammadan missionaries, and (especially on the 
south-western borderland of Islamic influence) present a 
striking contrast to the pagan tribes demoralised by the 
European gin traffic. This contrast has been well indicated 
by a modern traveller,^ in speaking of the degraded con- 
dition of the tribes of the Lower Niger : "In steaming up 
the river (i. e. the Niger), I saw little in the first 200 miles 
to alter my views, for there luxuriated in congenial union 
fetishism, cannibalism and the gin trade. But as I left 
behind me the low-lying coast region, and found myself 
near the southern boundary of what is called the Central 
Sudan, I observed an ever-increasing improvement in the 
appearance of the character of the native; cannibalism 
disappeared, fetishism followed in its wake, the gin trade 
largely disappeared, while on the other hand, clothes 
became more voluminous and decent, cleanliness the rule, 
while their outward more dignified bearing still further 
betokened a moral regeneration. Everything indicated a 
leavening of some higher element, an element that was 
clearly taking a deep hold on the negro nature and making 
him a new man. That element you will perhaps be 
surprised to learn is Mahommedanism. On passing Lokoja 
at the confluence of the Benue with the Niger, I left behind 
me the missionary outposts of Islam, and entering the 
Central Sudan, I found myself in a comparatively well- 
governed empire, teeming with a busy populace of keen 
traders, expert manufacturers of cloth, brass work and 
leather; a people, in fact, who have made enormous 
advances towards civilisation." 

In order to form a just estimate of the missionary activity 
of Islam in Nigritia, it must be borne in mind that, while on 

^ Joseph Thomson (2), p. 185. 


the coast and along the southern boundary of the sphere 
of Islamic influence, the Muhammadan missionary is the 
pioneer of his religion, there is still left behind him a vast 
field for Muslim propaganda in the inland countries that 
stretch away to the north and the east, though it is long 
since Islam took firm root in this soil. Some sections of the 
Funj, the predominant Negro race of Sennaar, are partly 
Muhammadan and partly heathen, and Muhammadan 
merchants from Nubia are attempting the conversion of 
the latter.^ 

The pagan tribe of the Jukun,^ whose once powerful 
kingdom disappeared before the victorious development of 
the Fulbe, has withstood the advancing influence of Muham- 
madanism, though the foreign minister of their king has 
always been a Muslim and colonies of Hausas and other 
Muhammadans have settled among them ; but these Muslim 
settlers do not succeed in making any converts from among 
the Jukun, whose traditions of their past greatness make 
them cling to the national faith whose spiritual headship is 
vested in their king.^ 

It would be easy also to enumerate many sections of the 
population of the Sudan and Senegambia, that still retain 
their heathen habits and beliefs, or cover these only with 
a slight veneer of Muhammadan observance even though 
they have been (in most cases) surrounded for centuries by 
the followers of the Prophet. The Konnohs, an offshoot of 
the great tribe of the Mandingos, are still largely pagan, 
and it is only in recent years that Islam has been making 
progress among them.* Consequently, the remarkable zeal 
for missionary work that has displayed itself among the 
Muhammadans of these parts during the present century, 
has not far to go in order to find abundant scope for its 
activity. Hence the importance, in the missionary history 
of Islam in this continent, of the movements of reform in 
the Muslim rehgion itself and the revivals of religious life, 
to which attention has been drawn above. 

The West Coast is another field for Muhammadan mis- 

^ Oppel, p. 303. * In the Muri Province of Northern Nigeria. 

* Journal of the African Society, vol. vii. pp. 379-81. 

* Haywood, p. 33. 



sionary enterprise where Islam finds itself confronted 
with a vast population still unconverted, in spite of the 
progress it has made on the Guinea Coast, in Sierra 
Leone and Liberia, in which last there are more Muham- 
madans than heathen. One of the earliest notices of 
Muslim missionary activity in the neighbourhood of 
Sierra Leone is to be found in a petition for the dis- 
solution of the Sierra Leone Company, ordered to be 
printed by the House of Commons, on the 25th May, 
1802. " Not more than seventy years ago, a small num- 
ber of Mahomedans established themselves in a country 
about forty miles to the northward of Sierra Leone, called 
from them the Mandingo Country. As is the practice 
of the professors of that religion they formed schools, in 
which the Arabic language and the doctrines of Mahomet 
were taught, and the customs of Mahomedans, particularly 
that of not selling any of their own rehgion as slaves, were 
adopted. Laws founded on the Koran were introduced. 
Those practices which chiefly contribute to depopulate the 
coast were eradicated, and in spite of many intestine con- 
vulsions, a great comparative degree of civilisation, union 
and security were introduced. Population, in consequence, 
rapidly increased and the whole power of that part of the 
country in which they are settled has gradually fallen into 
their hands. Those who have been taught in their schools 
are succeeding to wealth and power in the neighbouring 
countries, and carry with them a considerable portion of their 
religion and laws. Other chiefs are adopting the name 
assumed by these Mahomedans, on account of the respect 
which attends it ; and the religion of Islam seems likely to 
diffuse itself peaceably over the whole district in which the 
colony is situated, carrying with it those advantages which 
seem ever to have attended its victory over Negro super- 
stition." 1 In the Mendi country, about one hundred miles 
south of Sierra Leone, Islam appears to have found an 
entrance only in the present century, but to be now making 
steady progress. " The propagandism is not conducted by 
any special order of priests set apart for the purpose, but 

^ Claude George : The Rise of British West Africa, pp. 120-1. (London, 


every Musalman is an active missionary. Some half a dozen 
of them, more or less, meeting in a town, where they intend 
to reside for any length of time, soon run up a mosque and 
begin work. They first approach the chief of the town and 
obtain his consent to their intended act, and perhaps his 
promise to become an adherent. They teach him their 
prayers in Arabic, or as much as he can, or cares to, commit 
to memory. They put him through the forms and cere- 
monies used in praying, forbid him the use of alcoholic 
beverages — a restriction as often observed as not — and lo ! 
the man is a convert." ^ On the Guinea Coast, Muslim 
influences are spread chiefly by Hausa traders who are to be 
found in all the commercial towns on this coast ; whenever 
they form a settlement, they at once build a mosque and 
by their devout behaviour, and their superior culture, they 
impress the heathen inhabitants; whole tribes of fetish- 
worshippers pass over to Islam as the result of their imita- 
tion of what they recognise to be a higher civilisation than 
their own, without any particular efforts being necessary for 
persuading them.^ 

In Ashanti there was a nucleus of a Muhammadan popula- 
tion to be found as early as 1750 and the missionaries of 
Islam have laboured there ever since with slow but sure 
success,^ as they find a ready welcome in the country and 
have gained for themselves considerable influence at the 
court ; by means of their schools they get a hold on the 
minds of the younger generation, and there are said to be 
significant signs that Islam will become the predominant 
religion in Ashanti, as already many of the chiefs have 
adopted it.^ In Dahomey and the Gold Coast, Islam is daily 
making fresh progress, and even when the heathen chieftains 
do not themselves embrace it, they very frequently allow 
themselves to come under the influence of its missionaries, 
who know how to take advantage of this ascendancy in their 
labours among the common people.^ Dahomey and Ashanti 
are the most important kingdoms in this part of the 

^ Islam and Missions, pp. 73-4. 

* Lippert : Uber die Bedeutung der Haussanation fiir unsere Togo- und 
Kamerunkolonie, p. 200. MSOS, Band x. {1907), Abteilung III. 

» Waltz ; II" Theil, p. 250. 

* C. S. Salmon, p. 891. * Pierre Bouche, p. 256, 


continent that are still subject to pagan rulers, and their 
conversion is said to be a question of a short time only.^ 
In Lagos there are well-nigh 10,000 Muslims, and all the 
trading stations of the West Coast include in their popula- 
tions numbers of Musalmans belonging to the superior Negro 
tribes, such as the Fulbe, the Mandingos and the Hausa. 
When these men come down to the cities of the coast, as 
they do in considerable numbers, either as traders or to 
serve as troops in the armies of the European powers, they 
cannot fail to impress by their bold and independent bearing 
the Negro of the coast-land; he sees that the believers in 
the Qur'an are everywhere respected by European governors, 
officials and merchants ; they are not so far removed from 
him in race, appearance, dress or manners as to make 
admission into their brotherhood impossible to him, and to 
him too is offered a share in their privileges on condition 
of conversion to their faith. ^ As soon as the pagan Negro, 
however obscure or degraded, shows himself willing to accept 
the teachings of the Prophet, he is at once admitted as an 
equal into their society, and admission into the brotherhood 
of Islam is not a privilege grudgingly granted, but one freely 
offered by zealous and eager proselytisers. For, from the 
mouth of the Senegal to Lagos, over two thousand miles, 
there is said to be hardly any town of importance on the 
seaboard in which there is not at least one mosque, with 
active propagandists of Islam, often working side by side 
with the teachers of Christianity,^ 

We must now turn to the history of the spread of 
Islam on the other side of the continent of Africa, the 
inhabitants of which were in closer proximity to the 
land where this faith had its birth. The facts recorded 
respecting the early settlements of the Arabs on the 
East Coast are very meagre ; according to an Arabic 
chronicle which the Portuguese found in Kiloa * when 
that town was sacked by Don Francisco d'Alme'ida in 1505, 
the first settlers were a body of Arabs who were driven into 
exile because they followed the heretical teachings of a 

1 Blyden, p. 357. * C. S. Salmon, p. 887. 

* Blyden, p. 202. Westermann, pp. 633-4. 

* Situated on an island about 2" S. of Zanzibar. 


certain Zayd,^ a descendant of the Prophet, after whom they 
were called Emozaydij (probably Suj^jj i«t or people of 
Zayd). The Zayd here referred to is probably Zayd b. 'AH, 
a grandson of Husayn and so great-grandson of 'Ali, the 
nephew of Muhammad : in the reign of the caliph Hisham 
he claimed to be the Imam Mahdi and stirred up a revolt 
among the Shi'ah faction, but was defeated and put to death 
in A.H. 122 (a.d. 740).^ 

They seem to have lived in considerable dread of the 
original pagan inhabitants of the country, but succeeded 
gradually in extending their settlements along the coast, 
until the arrival of another band of fugitives who came from 
the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf, not far from the island 
of Bahrayn. These came in three ships under the leadership 
of seven brothers, in order to escape from the persecution 
of the king of Lasah,^ a city hard by the dwelling-place of 
their tribe. The first town they built was Magadaxo,* 
which afterwards rose to such power as to assume lordship 
over all the Arabs of the coast. But the original settlers, 
the Emozaydij, belonging as they did to a different Muham- 
madan sect, being Shi'ahs, while the new-comers were Sunnis, 
were unwilling to submit to the authority of the rulers of 
Magadaxo, and retired into the interior, where they became 
merged into the native population, intermarrying with 
them and adopting their manners and customs.^ 

Magadaxo was founded about the middle of the tenth 
century and remained the most powerful city on this coast 
for more than seventy years, when the arrival of another 
expedition from the Persian Gulf led to the estabhshment 
of a rival settlement further south. The leader of this 
expedition was named 'Ali, one of the seven sons of a 
certain Sultan Hasan of Shiraz : because his mother was 
an Abyssinian, he was looked down upon with contempt 
by his brothers, whose cruel treatment of him after the 
death of their father, determined him to leave his native 

^ " Hum Mouro chamado Zaide, que foi neto de Hocem filho de Ale o 
sobrinho de Mahamed." (De Barros, Dec. i. Liv. viii. cap. iv. p. 211.) 

* Ibn Khaldun. vol. iii. pp. 98-100. 

3 Possibly a mistake for al-Hasa. See Ibn Batiitah, tome ii. pp. 247-8, 

* Or (to give it its Arabic name) Maqdishu. 

5 J. de Barros : Dec. i. Liv, viii. cap. iv. pp. 211-12, 


land and seek a home elsewhere. Accordingly, with his 
wife and children and a small body of followers, he set sail 
from the island of Ormuz, and avoiding Magadaxo, whose 
inhabitants belonged to a different sect, and having heard 
that gold was to be found on the Zanzibar coast, he pushed 
on to the south and founded the city of Kiloa, where he 
could maintain a position of independence and be free from 
the interference of his predecessors further north. ^ 

In this way a number of Arab towns sprang up along the 
east coast from the Gulf of Aden to the Tropic of Capricorn, 
on the fringe of what was called by the mediaeval Arab 
geographers the country of the Zanj. Whatever efforts 
may have been made by the Muhammadan settlers to 
convert the Zanj, no record of them seems to have survived. 
There is a curious story preserved in an old collection of 
travels written probably in the early part of the tenth 
century, which represents Islam as having been introduced 
among one of these tribes by the king of it himself. An 
Arab trading vessel was driven out of its course by a tempest 
in the year a.d. 922 and carried to the country of the man- 
eating Zanj, where the crew expected certain death. On the 
contrary, the king of the place received them kindly and 
entertained them hospitably for several months, while they 
disposed of their merchandise on advantageous terms ; but 
the merchants repaid his kindness with foul treachery, by 
seizing him and his attendants when they came on board 
to bid them farewell, and then carrying them off as slaves to 
Omam. Some years later the same merchants were driven 
by a storm to the same port, where they were recognised 
by the natives who surrounded them in their canoes ; giving 
themselves up for lost this time, they repeated for one 
another the prayers for the dead. They were taken before 
the king, whom they discovered to their surprise and con- 
fusion to be the same they had so shamefully treated some 
years before. Instead, however, of taking vengeance upon 
them for their treacherous conduct, he spared their lives 
and allowed them to sell their goods, but rejected with scorn 
the rich presents they offered. Before they left, one of the 

^ De Barros, id. pp. 224-5. See also Justus Strandes : Die Portugiesen- 
zeit von Deutsch- und Englisch-Ostafrika, p. 81 sqq. (Berlin, 1899.) 


party ventured to ask the king to tell the story of his escape. 
He described how he had been taken as a slave to Basrah 
and thence to Bagdad, where he was converted to Islam 
and instructed in the faith; escaping from his master, he 
joined a caravan of pilgrims going to Mecca, and after 
performing the prescribed rites, reached Cairo and made his 
way up the Nile in the direction of his own country, which 
he reached at length after encountering many dangers and 
having been more than once enslaved. Restored once again 
to his kingdom, he taught his people the faith of Islam; 
" and now I rejoice in that God hath given to me and to my 
people the knowledge of Islam and the true faith; to no 
other in the land of the Zanj hath this grace been vouch- 
safed; and it is because you have been the cause of my 
conversion, that I pardon you. Tell the Muslims that they 
may come to our country, and that we — Muslims hke 
themselves — will treat them as brothers." ^ 

From the same source we learn that even at this early 
period, this coast-land was frequented by large numbers of 
Arab traders, yet in spite of centuries of intercourse with 
the followers of Islam, the original inhabitants of this coast 
(with the exception of the Somalis) have been remarkably 
httle influenced by this religion. Even before the Portu- 
guese conquests of the sixteenth century, what few con- 
versions had been made, seem to have been wholly confined 
to the sea-border, and even after the decline of Portuguese 
influence in this part of the world, and the restoration of 
Arab rule under the Sayyids of Omam, hardly any efforts 
were made until the twentieth century to spread the know- 
ledge of Islam among the tribes of the interior, with the 
exception of the Galla and Somali. As a modern traveller 
has said : " During the three expeditions which I conducted 
in East Central Africa I saw nothing to suggest Moham- 
medanism as a civilising power. Whatever Hving force 
might be in the rehgion remained latent. The Arabs, or 
their descendants, in these parts were not propagandists. 
There were no missionaries to preach Islam, and the natives 
of Muscat were content that their slaves should conform, to 

1 Kitab 'aja'ib al-Hind ou Livre des Merveilles de I'lnde, public par 
P. A. van der Lith. pp. 51-60. (Leiden, 1883.) 


a certain extent, to the forms of the reHgion. They left 
the East African tribes, who indeed, in their gross darkness, 
were evidently content to remain in happy ignorance. Their 
inaptitude for civilisation was strikingly shown in the strange 
fact that five hundred years of contact with semi-civilised 
people had left them without the faintest reflection of the 
higher traits which characterised their neighbours — not a 
single good seed during all these years had struck root and 
flourished." ^ Given up wholly to the pursuits of com- 
merce or to slave-hunting, the Arabs in Eastern Africa ex- 
hibited a lukewarmness in promoting the interests of their 
faith, which is in striking contrast to the missionary zeal 
displayed by their co-religionists in other parts of Africa. 

A notable exception is the propagandist activity of the 
Arab traders who were admitted into Uganda in the first 
half of the nineteenth century; they probably recognised 
that the sturdy independence of the Baganda made slave- 
raiding among them impossible, so they sought to gain their 
confidence by winning them over to their own faith. Many 
of the Baganda became Muhammadans during the reign of 
King Mutesa, but Stanley's visit to this monarch in 1875 
led to the introduction of Christian missions in the following 
year, and the power of the Muhammadans in the state 
declined with the rapid increase in the numbers of the 
Christian converts and the estabhshment of a British 
Protectorate. 2 But a number of Muhammadans still hold 
important positions in Uganda, and it is stated that there 
is a possibihty of the Eastern Province becoming Muslim, 
In the rich tributary country of Busoga, to the north of 
Uganda, a large number of those in authority were said, 
in 1906, to be Muhammadans.^ But with this exception 
Islam in East Equatorial Africa was up to the latter part 
of the nineteenth century confined to the coast-lands and 
the immediately adjoining country. The explanation would 
appear to be that it was not to the interests of the 

1 Mohammedanism in Central Africa, by Joseph Thomson, p. 877. 

^ Roscoe, p. 229 sq. 

3 Zwemer, p. 236. Gairdner (p. 26) gives the number of Muhammadans 
as 200,000 out of a population of four millions, but he does not state from 
what source he derives these figures. Roscoe (p. 6) gives the total popula- 
tion of Uganda as about one million only, 


slave-dealers to spread Islam among the heathen tribes from 
among whom they obtained their unhappy victims ; for, once 
converted to Islam, the native tribes would enter into the 
brotherhood of the faith and could not be raided and carried 
off as slaves.^ 

The suppression of the slave-trade, with the extension of 
European rule over East Equatorial Africa, was followed 
by a remarkable expansion of Muslim missionary activity; 
peace and order were established in the interior, railways 
and high roads were made, and the peaceful Muslim trader 
could now make his way into districts hitherto closed to 
him. The administration selected its officials from among 
the more cultivated Muhammadan section of the popula- 
tion; thousands of posts were created by the govern- 
ment of German East Africa and given to Muhammadan 
officials, whose influence was used to bring over whole 
villages to Islam. ^ The teachers of the state schools were 
likewise Muhammadans, and as early as the last decades of 
the nineteenth century Swahili schoolmasters were observed 
to be carrying on a lively and successful mission work among 
the people of Bondei and the Wadigo (who dwell a little 
inland from the coast) in German East Africa.^ But it was 
in the beginning of the twentieth century, especially after 
the suppression of the insurrection of 1905 in German East 
Africa, that the activity of this new missionary movement 
became strikingly noticeable in the interior.* This move- 
ment of expansion has especially followed the railroads 
and the great trade routes, and has spread right across 
German East Africa to its western boundary on Lake 
Tanganyika, northward from Usambara to the Kilimanjaro 
district, and southward to Lake Nyasa.^ The workers in 
this propaganda are merchants, especially Swahilis from the 
coast, soldiers and government officials.^ The acceptance 
of Islam is looked upon as a sign of an elevation to a higher 
civilisation and social status, and the ridicule with which 
the pagans are regarded by the Muhammadans is said often 

1 Richter, pp. 146-7, 154. Merensky, p. 156. Klamroth, p. 4. 
^ R. du M. M., vol. ix. (1909), p. 322. 

' Oscar Baumann : Usambara und seine Nachbargebiete, pp. 141, 153. 
(Berlin, 1891.) * Becker, Islam in Deutsch-Ostafrika, p. jo, 

6 Id. p. 13 sqq. Klamrpth, pp, 14-28. « Id. p. 53, 


to be a determining factor in their conversion. ^ An instance 
of the operation of this feeHng may be taken from West 
Usambara, which was said in 1891 to be still closed to Islam ; 
the feeling of both chiefs and people was hostile to the 
Muhammadans, who were hated and feared as slave-dealers ; 
but when the days of the slave-trade were over and an 
ordered administration was established, the first native 
officials appointed were almost entirely Muhammadans ; 
they impressed upon the chiefs and other notables who came 
in touch with them that it was the correct thing for those 
who moved in official circles to be Muhammadans, and 
thereby achieved the conversion of some of the greater 
chiefs, who afterwards exercised a similar influence on chiefs 
of an inferior degree. ^ There seems to be little evidence of 
the activity of professional missionaries or of any of the 
religious orders, but there are not wanting evidences of 
systematic efforts, such as those of a Muslim teacher, who 
is reported to have regularly visited a district in the Kili- 
manjaro country every week for five months, preaching the 
faith of Islam ; his ministrations were welcomed by the 
people, whom he entertained with feasts of rice, etc.^ In 
this zealous propaganda it is noticeable that the preachers of 
Islam do not confine their attention to pagans only, but seek 
also to win converts from among the native Christians.* 

Islam made its way into Nyasaland also from the East 
Coast, having been introduced by the slave-raiding Arabs 
and their allies the Yaos, whose ancestors came from near 
the East Coast where they had long since accepted Islam. 
It is said that an Arab is now seldom seen in Nyasaland, but 
the Yaos constitute one of the most powerful native tribes 
in Nyasaland, and look upon Islam as their national faith. 
Though there appears to be no organised propaganda, Islam 
has spread very rapidly during the first decade of the 
twentieth century, and that among some of the most 
intelligent tribes in the country.^ 

Islam has achieved a similar success among the Galla and 
the Somali. Mention has already been made of the Galla 

^ Klamroth, pp. 21, 25, 54. ^ Id. pp. 23-4. 

^ Id. p. 26. * Id. p. 67. 

* Becker: Islam in Deutsch-Ostafrika, p. 14. The Moslem World, 
vol. ii. p. 3 sqq. 


settlements in Abyssinia ; these immigrants, who are divided 
into seven principal clans, with the generic name of WoUo- 
Galla, were probably all heathen at the time of their incur- 
sion into the country,^ and a large part of them remain 
so to the present day. After settling in Abyssinia they 
soon became naturalised there, and in many instances 
adopted the language, manners and customs of the original 
inhabitants of the country.^ 

The story of their conversion is obscure : while some of 
them are said to have been forcibly baptised into the 
Christian faith, the absence of any political power in the 
hands of the Muhammadans precludes the possibiUty of 
any converts to Islam having been made in a similar fashion. 
In the eighteenth century, those in the south were said to 
be mostly Muhammadans, those to the east and west chiefly 
pagans.^ More recent information points to a further 
increase in the number of the followers of the Prophet, and 
in 1867 Munzinger prophesied that in a short time all the 
Galla tribes would be Muhammadan,* and as they were said 
to be " very fanatical," we may presume that they were by 
no means half-hearted or lukewarm in their adherence to 
this religion.^ 

The Galla freedman whom Doughty met at Khaybar 
certainly exhibited a remarkable degree of zeal for his own 
faith. He had been carried off from his home when a 
child and sold as a slave in Jiddah ; when Doughty asked 
him whether no anger was left in his heart against those 
who had stolen him and sold his life to servitude in the ends 
of the earth, " Yet one thing," he answered, " has recom- 
pensed me, — that I remained not in ignorance with the 
heathen ! — Oh, the wonderful providence of Ullah ! whereby 

1 A contemporary Ethiopic account of these tribes, — Geschichte der 
Galla. Bericht eines abessinischen Monches iiber die Invasion der Galla 
in sechzehnten Jahrhundert. Text und Ubersetzung hrsg. von A. W. 
Schleichler (Berlin, 1893), — seems certainly to represent them as heathen, 
though no detailed account is given of their rehgion. Reclus (tome x. 
p. 330), however, supposes them to have been Muhammadan at the time of 
their invasion. 

2 Henry Salt : A Voyage to Abyssinia, p. 299. (London. 1814.) 

* James Bruce : Travels to discover the source of the Nile, 2nd ed. vol, iii, 
p. 243. (Edinburgh, 1805.) 

* Munzinger, p. 408. 

5 I. L. Krapf : Reisen in Ost- Africa, ausgefiihrt in den Jahren 1837-55, 
vol. i. p. 106. (Kornthal, 1858.) 


I am come to this country of the Apostle, and to the know- 
ledge of the religion ! " ^ " Oh ! what sweetness is there 
in believing ! Trust me, dear comrade, it is a thing above 
that which any heart may speak ; and would God thou wert 
come to this (heavenly) knowledge ; but the Lord will surely 
have a care of thee, that thou shouldst not perish without 
the religion. Ay, how good a thing it were to see thee a 
Moslem, and become one with us ; but I know that the time 
is in God's hand : the Lord's will be done." ^ 

Among the Galla tribes of the true Galla country, the 
population is partly Muhammadan (some tribes having 
been converted about 1500) ^ and partly heathen, with 
the exception of those tribes immediately bordering on 
Abyssinia who in the latter part of the nineteenth 
century were forced by the king of that country to 
accept Christianity.* Among the mountains, the Muham- 
madans are in a minority, but on the plains the 
missionaries of Islam have met with striking success, and 
their teaching found a rapidly increasing acceptance 
during the last century. Antonio Cecchi, who visited the 
petty kingdom of Limmu in 1878, gives an account of 
the conversion of Abba Baghibo,^ the father of the then 
reigning chieftain, by Muhammadans who for some years 
had been pushing their proselytising efforts in this country 
in the guise of traders. His example was followed by the 
chiefs of the neighbouring Galla kingdoms and by the 
officers of their courts ; part of the common people also were 
won over to the new faith, and it continued to make progress 
among them, but the greater part cling firmly to their 
ancient cult.® These traders received a ready welcome at 
the courts of the Galla chiefs, inasmuch as they found them 
a market for the commercial products of the country and 
imported objects of foreign manufacture in exchange. As 
they made their journeys to the coast once a year only, or 

1 Arabia Deserta, vol. ii. p. 168. ^ Id., vol. ii. p. 109. 

^ Morie, vol. ii. p. 248. 

* Reclus, tome. x. p. 309. Basset, pp. 270-1. 

■' When the Roman Catholics opened a mission among the Gallas in 
1846, Abba Baghibo said to them : " Had you come thirty years ago, not 
only I, but all my countrymen might have embraced your religion; but 
now it is impossible." (Massaja, vol. iv. p. 103.) 

* Da Zeila alle frontiere del Caffa, vol, ii, p. 160. (Rome, 1886-7.) 
Massaja, vol, iv. p. 103 ; vol, yi. p. 10, 


even once in two years, and lived all the rest of the time in 
the Galla country, they had plenty of opportunities, which 
they knew well how to avail themselves of, for the work of 
propagating Islam, and wherever they set their foot they 
were sure in a short space of time to gain a large number of 
proselytes > Islam here came in conflict with Christian 
missionaries from Europe, whose efforts, though winning for 
Christianity a few converts, have been crowned with very 
little success, 2 — even the converts of Cardinal Massaja (after 
he was expelled from these parts) either embraced Islam or 
ended by believing neither in Christ nor in Allah,^ — whereas 
the Muslim missionaries achieved a continuous success, and 
pushed their way far to the south, and crossed the Wabi 
river.* The majority of the Galla tribes dwelling in the 
west of the Galla country were still heathen towards the end 
of the nineteenth century, but among the most westerly of 
them, viz. the Lega,^ the old nature worship appeared to 
be on the decline and the growing influence of the Muslim 
missionaries made it probable that within a few years the 
Lega would all have entered into the pale of Islam.® 

The North-East Africa of the present day presents indeed 
the spectacle of a remarkably energetic and zealous mission- 
ary activity on the part of the Muhammadans. Several 
hundreds of missionaries come from Arabia every year, and 
they have been even more successful in their labours among 
the Somali than among the Galla.' The close proximity of 
the Somali country to Arabia must have caused it very 
early to have been the scene of Muhammadan missionary 
labours, but of these unfortunately little record seems to 
have survived. The people of Zayla' were said by Ibn 
Hawqal ^ in the second half the ninth century to be 
Christians, but in the first half of the fourteenth century 

^ Massaja, vol. iv. p. 102. 

^ Speaking of the failure of Christian missions, Cecchi says : " di cio si 
deve ricercare la causa nello espandersi che fece quaggiu in questi ultimi 
anni 1' islamismo, portato da centinaja di preti emercanti musulmani, cui 
non facevano difetto i mezzi, 1' astuziae la plena conoscenza della lingua." 
(Op. cit. vol. ii. p. 342.) 

3 Id., p. 343. 

* Reclus, tome xiii. p. 834. 

^ The Lega are found in long. 9° to 9° 30' and lat. E. 34* 35' to 35°. 

' Reclus, tome x. p. 350. 

' Paulitschke, pp. 330-1. * Ibn Hawqal, p. 41. 


Abu'1-Fida speaks of them as being Musalmans.^ The 
new faith was probably brought across the sea by Arab 
merchants or refugees. The Somahs of the north have 
a tradition of a certain Arab of noble birth who, com- 
pelled to flee his own country, crossed the sea to Adel, 
where he preached the faith of Islam among their fore- 
fathers, ^ In the fifteenth century a band of forty-four 
Arabs came as missionaries from Hadramawt, landing 
at Berberah on the Red Sea, and thence dispersed 
over the Somali country to preach Islam. One of them, 
Shayldi Ibrahim Abu Zarbay, made his way to the city of 
Harar about a.d. 1430, and gained many converts there, and 
his tomb is still honoured in that city. A hill near Berberah 
is still called the Mount of Saints in memory of these 
missionaries, who are said to have sat there in solemn 
conclave before scattering far and wide to the work of 
conversion.^ Islam gradually became predominant through- 
out the whole of North-East Africa, but the growing power 
of the Emperor Menelik and his occupation of Harar in 1886 
resulted in a certain number of conversions to Christianity.* 
In order to complete this survey of Islam in Africa, it 
remains only to draw attention to the fact that this religion 
has also made its entrance into the extreme south of this 
continent, viz. in Cape Colony. These Muhammadans of 
the Cape are descendants of Malays, who were brought here 
by the Dutch ^ either in the seventeenth or eighteenth 
century; ^ they speak a corrupt form of the Boer dialect, 
with a considerable admixture of Arabic, and some English 
and Malay words. A curious little book published in this 

^ Abu'l-Fida, tome ii. i^^ partie, pp. 231-2. 

2 Documents sur I'histoire, la geographie et le commerce de I'Afrique 
Orientale, recueillis par M. Guillain. Deuxifeme partie, tome i. p. 399- 
(Paris, 1856.) 

* R. F. Burton : First Footprints in East Africa, pp. 76, 404. (London, 

* R. du M. M., vi. p. 288. (1908.) 

^ The Cape of Good Hope was in the possession of the Dutch from 1652 
to 1795; restored to them after the Peace of Amiens in 1802, it was re- 
occupied by the British as soon as war broke out again. 

* Among these was Shaykh Yusuf, a reUgious teacher of great influence 
in Java and the last champion of the independence of Bantam; in 1694 
he was removed by the Dutch to Cape Colony as a prisoner of state, together 
with his family and numerous attendants ; his tomb is still regarded as a 
holy place. (G. M. Theal : History and Ethnography of Africa south of 
the Zambesi, vol. ii. p. 263.) (London, 1909.) 


dialect and written in Arabic characters was published in 
Constantinople in 1877 by the Turkish minister of education, 
to serve as a handbook of the principles of the Muslim 
faith. ^ The thoroughly Dutch names that some of them 
bear, and the type of face observable in many of them, point 
to the probability that they have at some time received into 
their community some persons of Dutch birth, or at least 
that they have in their veins a considerable admixture of 
Dutch blood. They have also gained some converts from 
among the Hottentots. Very little notice has been taken 
of them by European travellers,^ or even by their 
co-religionists until recently. In 1819 Colebrooke had 
drawn attention to the growth of Islam in some interesting 
notes he wrote on the Cape Colony : " Mohammedanism 
is said to be gaining ground among the slaves and free 
people of colour at the Cape; that is to say, more 
converts among negroes and blacks of every description 
are made from Paganism to the Musleman, than to the 
Christian religion, notwithstanding the zealous exertions 
of pious missionaries. One cause of this perversion is 
asserted to be a marked disinclination of slave owners to 
allow their slaves to be baptized ; arising from some erron- 
eous notions or over-charged apprehensions of the rights 
which a baptized slave acquires. Slaves are certainly 
impressed with the idea that such a disinclination subsists, 
and it is not an unfrequent answer of a slave, when asked 
his motives for turning Musleman, that * some religion he 
must have, and he is not allowed to turn Christian.' Pre- 
judices in this respect are wearing away; and less dis- 
couragement is now given to the conversion of slaves than 
heretofore. Masters, it is affirmed, begin to find that their 
slaves serve not the worse for instruction received in religious 
duties. Missionaries who devote themselves especially to 
the religious instruction of slaves (and there is one in each 
of the principal towns) have increasing congregations, and 
hope that their labours are not unfruitful. But the 

^ M. J. de Goeje : Mohammedaansche Propaganda, pp. 2, 6. (Overge- 
drukt uit de Nederlandsche Spectator, No. 51, 1881.) 

^ Attention was drawn to them in 181 4 by a Mr. Campbell. See William 
Adams : The Modern Voyager and Traveller, vol. i. p. 93. (London, 


Musleman priest, with less exertion, has a greater flock." i 
During the last fifty years the Muhammadans in Cape 
Colony have been visited by some zealous co-religionists 
from other countries, and more attention is now paid by 
them to education, and a deeper religious life has been 
stirred up among them, and theyare said to carry on a zealous 
propaganda, especially among the coloured people at the 
Cape and to achieve a certain success. ^ This proselytising 
movement is especially strong in the western part of Cape 
Colony. It is said that there is a movement on foot for the 
founding of a college at Claremont, in the vicinity of Cape 
Town, which shall become a centre for the propagation of 
Islam. One of the methods at present employed is the 
adoption of neglected or abandoned children, who are 
brought up in the Muslim faith.^ Every year some of them 
make the pilgrimage to Mecca, where a special Shayldi has 
been appointed to look after them.* The Indian coolies 
that come to work in the diamond fields of South Africa are 
also said to be propagandists of Islam. ^ 

On account of its isolated position, 220 to 540 miles from 
the mainland, the island of Madagascar calls for separate 
mention. The only tribe that has adopted Islam is that of 
the Antaimorona, occupying a part of the south-east coast ; 
they undoubtedly owed their conversion to missionaries 
from Arabia, but the date at which this change of faith took 
place is entirely unknown; tradition would carry it back 
to the very days of Muhammad himself, but it is not until 
the sixteenth century that we get, in the works of Itahan 
and Portuguese geographers, authentic mention of Muham- 
madans on the island.^ 

From the historical sketch given above it may be seen 
that peaceful methods have largely characterised the Muham- 
madan missionary movement in Africa, and though Islam 

1 SirT.E.Colebrooke: TheLifeof H.T.Colebrooke,p.335. (London, 1873.) 

- F. Coillard : Au Cap de Bonne Esperance. (Journal des missions 
evangeliques, avril 1899, p. 265.) 

' Kumm, p. 233. * C. Snouck Hurgronje (3), vol. ii. pp. 296-7. 

* Jacques Bonzon : Les Missionaires de I'lslam en Afrique. (Revue 
Chretienne, tome xiii. p. 295.) (Paris, 1893.) 

® G. Ferrand, Les Musulmans ^ Madagascar, pp. 19, 50 sqq., 138. (Paris, 
1891.) Id. Les Migrations musulmanes et juives a Madagascar. (Revue 
de I'Histoire des Religions, vol. lii. p. 381 sqq.) 


has often taken the sword as an instrument to further its 
spiritual conquests, such an appeal to violence and bloodshed 
has in most cases been preceded by the peaceful efforts of 
the missionary, and the preacher has followed the conqueror 
to complete the imperfect work of conversion. It is true 
that the success of Islam has been very largely facilitated 
in many parts of Africa by the worldly successes of Muham- 
madan adventurers, and the erection of Muhammadan states 
on the ruins of pagan kingdoms, and fire and bloodshed have 
often marked the course of a Jihad, projected for the exter- 
mination of the infidel. The words of the young Arab from 
Bornu whom Captain Burton ^ met in the palace of the King 
of Abeokuta doubtless express the aspirations of many an 
African Muhammadan : " Give those guns and powder to 
us, and we will soon Islamise these dogs " : and they find 
an echo in the message that Mungo Park ^ gives us as having 
been sent by the Muslim King of Futah Toro to his pagan 
neighbour : " With this knife Abdulkader will condescend 
to shave the head of Damel, if Damel will embrace the 
Mahommedan faith ; and with this other knife Abdulkader 
will cut the throat of Damel, if Damel refuses to embrace it ; 
take your choice." 

But much as Islam may have owed to the martial prowess 
of such fanatics as these, there is the overwhelming testimony 
of travellers and others to the peaceful missionary preaching, 
and quiet and persistent labours of the Muslim propagandist, 
which have done more for the rapid spread of Islam in 
modern Africa than any violent measures : by the latter its 
opponents may indeed have been exterminated, but by the 
former chiefly, have its converts been made, and the work of 
conversion may still be observed in progress in many regions 
of the coast and the interior.^ Wherever Islam has made 
its way, there is the Muhammadan missionary to be found 
bearing witness to its doctrines, — the trader, be he Arab, 
Pul or Mandingo, who combines proselytism with the sale of 
his merchandise, and whose very profession brings him into 
close and immediate contact with those he would convert, 

1 Richard F. Burton (i), vol. i. p. 256. 

2 Travels in the Interior of Africa, chap. xxv. ad fin. 

^ D. J. East, pp. 118-20. W. Winwood Reade, vol. i. p. 312. Blyden, 
pp. 13, 202. 
A A 


and disarms any possible suspicion of sinister motives; 
such a man when he enters a pagan village soon attracts 
attention by his frequent ablutions and regularly recurring 
times of prayer and prostration, in which he appears to be 
conversing with some invisible being, and by his very 
assumption of intellectual and moral superiority, commands 
the respect and confidence of the heathen people, to whom 
at the same time he shows himself ready and willing to 
communicate his high privileges and knowledge; — the haji 
or pilgrim who has returned from Mecca full of enthusiasm 
for the spread of the faith, to which he devotes his whole 
energies, wandering about from place to place, supported 
by the alms of the faithful who bear witness to the truth 
in the midst of their pagan neighbours ; — the student who, 
in consequence of his knowledge of Islamic theology and 
law, receives honour as a man of learning : sometimes, too, 
he practises medicine, or at least he is in great requisition as 
a writer of charms, texts from the Qur'an, which are sewn 
up in pieces of leather or cloth and tied on the arms, or 
round the neck, and which he can turn to account as a means 
of adding to the number of his converts : for instance, when 
childless women or those who have lost their children in 
infancy, apply for these charms, as a condition of success the 
obligation is always imposed upon them of bringing up their 
future children as Muhammadans.^ These religious teachers, 
or marabouts, or aliifas as they are variously termed, are 
held in the highest estimation. In some tribes of Western 
Africa every village contains a lodge for their reception, and 
they are treated with the utmost deference and respect : 
in Darfur they hold the highest rank after those who fill the 
offices of government : among the Mandingos they rank still 
higher, and receive honour next to the king, the subordinate 
chiefs being regarded as their inferiors in point of dignity : 
in those states in which the Qur'an is made the rule of 
government in all civil matters, their services are in great 
demand, in order to interpret its meaning. So sacred are 
the persons of these teachers esteemed, that they pass 
without molestation through the countries of chiefs, not 

^ Bishop Crowther on Islam in Western Africa. (Church Missionary 
InteUigencer, p. 254, April 1888.) 


only hostile to each other, but engaged in actual warfare. 
Such deference is not only paid to them in Muhammadan 
countries, but also in the pagan villages in which they 
establish their schools, where the people respect them as the 
instructors of their children, and look upon them as the 
medium between themselves and Heaven, either for securing 
a supply of their necessities, or for warding off or removing 
calamities. 1 Many of these teachers have studied in the 
mosques of Qayrwan, Fas, Tripoli ^ and other centres of 
Muslim learning; but especially in the mosque of al-Azhar 
in Cairo. Students flock to it from all parts of the Muslim 
world, and among them is often to be found a contingent 
from Negro Africa, — students from Darfur, Wadai and 
Bornu, and some who even make their way on foot from 
the far distant West Coast ; when they have finished their 
courses of study in Muslim theology and jurisprudence, 
there are many of them who become missionaries among 
the heathen population of their native land. Schools are 
established by these missionaries in the towns they visit, 
which are frequented by the pagan as well as the Muslim 
children. They are taught to read the Qur'an, and in- 
structed in the doctrines and ceremonies of Islam. Having 
thus gained a footing, the Muhammadan missionary, by his 
superior knowledge and attainments, is not slow to obtain 
great influence over the people among whom he has come to 
live. In this he is aided by the fact that his habits and 
manner of life are similar in many respects to their own, nor 
is he looked upon with suspicion, inasmuch as the trader 
has already prepared the way for him ; and by intermarriage 
with the natives, being thus received into their social system, 
his influence becomes firmly rooted and permanent, and 
so in the most natural manner he gradually causes the 
knowledge of Islam to spread among them. 

His propagandist efforts are further facilitated by the fact 
that the deism which forms the background of the religious 
consciousness of many fetish-worshippers may pass by an 
easy transition into the theism of Islam, together with some 

^ D. J. East, pp. 1 12-13. Blyden, p. 202. 

2 It is said that over a thousand missionaries of Islam leave Tripoli every 
year to work in the Sudan. (Paulitschke, p. 331.) 


other aspects of their theology, while their general out- 
look upon life and several of their religious institutions are 
capable of taking on a Muslim colouring and of being trans- 
ferred to the new system of faith without undergoing much 
modification. 1 

The arrival of the Muhammadan in a pagan country is 
also the beginning of the opening up of a more extensive 
trade, and of communication with great Muhammadan 
trading centres such as Jenne, Segu or Kano, and a share 
in the advantages of this material civilisation is offered, 
together with the religion of the Prophet. Thus " among the 
uncivilised negro tribes the missionary may be always sure 
of a ready audience : he can not only give them many 
truths regarding God and man which make their way to the 
heart and elevate the intellect, but he can at once com- 
municate the Shibboleth of admission to a social and political 
communion, which is a passport for protection and assistance 
from the Atlantic to the Wall of China. Wherever a Moslem 
house can be found there the negro convert who can repeat 
the dozen syllables of his creed, is sure of shelter, sustenance 
and advice, and in his own country he finds himself at once 
a member of an influential, if not of a dominant caste. This 
seems the real secret of the success of the Moslem mission- 
aries in West Africa. It is great and rapid as regards 
numbers, for the simple reason that the Moslem missionary, 
from the very first profession of the convert's belief, acts 
practically on those principles regarding the equality and 
brotherhood of all believers before God, which Islam shares 
with Christianity ; and he does this, as a general rule, more 
speedily and decidedly than the Christian missionary, who 
generally feels bound to require good evidence of a converted 
heart before he gives the right hand of Christian fellowship, 
and who has always to contend with race prejudices not 
likely to die out in a single generation where the white 
Christian has for generations been known as master, and 
the black heathen as slave." ^ 

It is important, too, to note that neither his colour nor 

^ For a detailed examination of these points of contact, see Forget, 
p. 28 sqq. Merensky, p. 155. 
* Sir Bartle Frere (i), pp. 18-19. 


his race in any way prejudice the Negro in the eyes of his 
new co-rehgionists. The progress of Islam in Negritia has 
no doubt been materially advanced by this absence of any 
feeling of repulsion towards the Negro — indeed Islam seems 
never to have treated the Negro as an inferior, as has been 
unhappily too often the case in Christendom. ^ 

This consideration goes partly to explain the success of 
Muslim as contrasted with Christian missions among the 
Negro peoples. It has frequently been pointed out that the 
Negro convert to Christianity is apt to feel that his European 
co-religionists belong to a stratum of civilisation alien 
to his own habits of life, whereas he feels himself to 
be more at home in a Muslim society. This has been well 
stated by a modern observer, in the following passage : — 
" Islam, despite its shortcomings, does not, from the 
Nigerian point of view, demand race suicide of the Nigerian 
as an accompaniment of conversion. It does not stipulate 
revolutionary changes in social life, impossible at the present 
stage of Nigerian development ; nor does it undermine 
family or communal authority. Between the converter and 
converted there is no abyss. Both are equal, not in theory, 
but in practice, before God. Both are African ; sons of the 
soil. The doctrine of the brotherhood of man is carried out 
in practice. Conversion does not mean for the converted 

^ E. W. Blyden, pp. 18-24. E. AUegret, p. 200. Westermann, pp. 644-5. 

In a very interesting, but now forgotten, debate before the Anthro- 
pological Society of London, on the Efforts of Missionaries among Savages, 
a case was mentioned of a Christian missionary in Africa who married a 
negress : the feeling against him in consequence was so strong that he had 
to leave the colony. The Muslim missionary labours under no such dis- 
advantage. (Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, vol. iii. 

The contrast between the way in which Christianity and Islam present 
themselves to the African is well brought out by one who is himself a Negro, 
in the following passage : — " Tandis que les missions renvoient a une 
epoque indefinie I'etabhssement du pastorat indigene, les pretres musulmans 
penetrent dans I'interieur de I'Afrique, trouvent un acces facile chez les 
paiens et les convertissent k I'islam. De sorte qu'aujourd'hui les negres 
regardent I'islam comme la religion des noirs, et le christianisme comme la 
religion des blancs. Le christianisme, pensent-ils, appelle le negre au 
salut, mais lui assigne une place tellement basse que, decourage, il se dit : 
' Je n'ai ni part ni portion dans cette affaire.' L'islam appelle le negre au 
salut et lui dit : ' II ne depend que de toi pour arriver aussi haut que 
possible.' Alors, le negre enthousiasme se livre corps et ame au service 
de cette religion." L'islam et le christianisme en Afrique d'apres un 
Africain. (Journal des Missions Evangiliques. 63= annee, p. 207.) 
(Paris, 1888.) 


a break with his interests, his family, his social life, his 
respect for the authority of his natural rulers. . . . No one 
can fail to be impressed with the carriage, the dignity of the 
Nigerian — indeed of the West African — Mohammedan ; the 
whole bearing of the man suggests a consciousness of citizen- 
ship, a pride of race which seems to say : ' We are different, 
thou and I, but we are men.' The spread of Islam in 
Southern Nigeria which we are witnessing to-day is mainly 
social in its action. It brings to those with whom it comes 
in contact a higher status, a loftier conception of man's 
place in the universe around him, release from the thraldom 
of a thousand superstitious fears." ^ 

According to Muhammadan tradition Moses was a black 
man, as may be seen from the following passages in the 
Qur'an. " Now draw thy hand close to thy side : it shall 
come forth white, but unhurt : — another sign ! " (xx. 23). 
" Then drew he forth his hand, and lo ! it was white to the 
beholders. The nobles of Pharaoh's people said : ' Verily 
this is an expert enchanter' " (vii. 105—6). The following 
story also, handed down to us from the golden period of the 
'Abbasid dynasty, is interesting as evidence of Muham- 
madan feeling with regard to the Negro. Ibrahim, a brother 
of Hariin al-Rashid and the son of a negress, had pro- 
claimed himself Caliph at Bagdad, but was defeated and 
forgiven by al-Ma'mun, who was then reigning (a.d. 819). 
He thus describes his interview with the Caliph : — " Al- 
Ma'miin said to me on my going to see him after having 
obtained pardon : ' Is it thou who art the Negro khalifah ? ' 
to which I replied : — ' Commander of the faithful ! I am 
he whom thou hast deigned to pardon ; and it has been said 
by the slave of Banu'l-Hashas : — " When men extol their 
worth, the slave of the family of Hashas can supply, by his 
verses, the defect of birth and fortune." Though I be a 
slave, my soul, through its noble nature, is free ; though my 
body be dark, my mind is fair.' To this al-Ma'miin 
replied : ' Uncle ! a jest of mine has put you in a serious 
mood.' He then repeated these verses : ' Blackness of 
skin cannot degrade an ingenious mind, or lessen the 

1 E. D. Morel : Nigeria, its people and its problems, pp. 216-17. 
(London, 191 1.) 


worth of the scholar and the wit. Let darkness claim the 
colour of your body : I claim as mine your fair and 
candid soul.' " ^ 

Thus, the converted Negro at once takes an equal place 
in the brotherhood of believers, neither his colour nor his 
race nor any associations of the past standing in the way. 
It is doubtless the ready admission they receive, that makes 
the pagan Negroes willing to enter into a religious society 
whose higher civilisation demands that they should give up 
many of their old barbarous habits and customs ; at the 
same time the very fact that the acceptance of Islam does 
imply an advance in civilisation and is a very distinct step 
in the intellectual, moral and material progress of a Negro 
tribe, helps very largely to explain the success of this faith. 
The forces arrayed on its side are so powerful and ascendant, 
that the barbarism, ignorance and superstition which it 
seeks to sweep away have little chance of making a length- 
ened resistance. What the civilisation of Muslim Africa 
imples to the Negro convert, is admirably expressed in the 
following words : " The worst evils which, there is reason 
to believe, prevailed at one time over the whole of Africa, 
and which are still to be found in many parts of it, and 
those, too, not far from the Gold Coast and from our own 
settlements — cannibalism and human sacrifice and the 
burial of living infants — disappear at once and for ever. 
Natives who have hitherto lived in a state of nakedness, or 
nearly so, begin to dress, and that neatly; natives who have 
never washed before begin to wash, and that frequently; 
for ablutions are commanded in the Sacred Law, and it is 
an ordinance which does not involve too severe a strain on 
their natural instincts. The tribal organisation tends to 
give place to something which has a wider basis. In other 
words, tribes coalesce into nations, and, with the increase 
of energy and intelligence, nations into empires. Many 
such instances could be adduced from the history of the 
Soudan and the adjoining countries during the last hundred 
years. If the warlike spirit is thus stimulated, the centres 
from which war springs are fewer in number and further 
apart. War is better organised, and is under some form of 

1 Jbn Hiallikan, vol. i. p. i8, 


restraint ; quarrels are not picked for nothing ; there is less 
indiscriminate plundering and greater security for property 
and life. Elementary schools/ like those described by 
Mungo Park a century ago, spring up, and even if they only 
teach their scholars to recite the Koran, they are worth 
something in themselves, and may be a step to much more. 
The well-built and neatly-kept mosque, with its call to 
prayer repeated five times a day, its Mecca-pointing niche, 
its Imam and its weekly service, becomes the centre of the 
village, instead of the ghastly fetish or Juju house. The 
worship of one God, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, 
and compassionate, is an immeasurable advance upon 
anything which the native has been taught to worship before. 
The Arabic language, in which the Mussulman scriptures 
are always written, is a language of extraordinary copious- 
ness and beauty; once learned it becomes a lingua franca 
to the tribes of half the continent, and serves as an introduc- 
tion to literature, or rather, it is a literature in itself. It 
substitutes moreover, a written code of law for the arbitrary 
caprice of a chieftain — a change which is, in itself, an 
immense advance in civilisation. Manufactures and com- 
merce spring up, not the dumb trading or the elementary 
bartering of raw products which we know from Herodotus 
to have existed from the earliest times in Africa, nor the 
cowrie shells, or gunpowder, or tobacco, or rum, which still 
serve as a chief medium of exchange all along the coast, but 
manufactures involving considerable skill, and a commerce 

^ " Extracts from the Koran form the earliest reading lessons of children, 
and the commentaries and other works founded upon it furnish the principal 
subjects of the advanced studies. Schools of different grades have existed 
for centuries in various interior negro countries, and under the provision 
of law, in which even the poor are educated at the public expense, and in 
which the deserving are carried on many years through long courses of 
regular instruction. Nor is the system ' always confined to the Arabic 
language, or to the works of Arabic writers. A number of native languages 
have been reduced to writing, books have been translated from the Arabic 
and original works have been written in them. Schools also have been kept 
in which native languages are taught." Condition and Character of Negroes 
in Africa. By Theodore Dwight. (Methodist Quarterly Review, January 

Dr. Blyden (pp. 206-7) mentions the following books as read by Muslims 
in Western Africa : Maqamat of Hariri, portions of Aristotle and Plato 
translated into Arabic, an Arabic version of Hippocrates, and the Arabic 
New Testament and Psalms issued by the American Bible Society. For the 
literature of the Mushms in East Africa, see Becker : Islam in Deutsch 
Ostafrika, p. 18 sqq. 


which is elaborately organised; and under their influence, 
and that of the more settled government which Islam brings 
in its train, there have arisen those great cities of Negro- 
land whose very existence, when first they were described 
by European travellers, could not but be half discredited. 
I am far from saying that the religion is the sole cause of 
all this comparative prosperity. I only say it is consistent 
with it, and it encourages it. Climatic conditions and various 
other influences co-operate towards the result ; but what 
has Pagan Africa, even where the conditions are very 
similar, to compare with it ? As regards the individual, it 
is admitted on all hands that Islam gives to its new Negro 
converts an energy, a dignity, a self-reliance, and a self- 
respect which is all too rarely found in their Pagan or their 
Christian fellow-countrymen." ^ 

The words above quoted were written before the partition 
of the greater part of Africa among the governments of 
Christian Europe — England, France and Germany — but 
the imposing character of Muslim civilisation has not ceased 
to impress the Negro mind, or to operate as one of the 
influences favourable to the conversion of the African 
fetish- worshippers. Brought suddenly into contact with 
European culture, these have received an impulse to advance 
in the path of civilisation, but being unable to bridge over 
the gulf that separates them from their foreign rulers, they 
find in Islam a culture corresponding to their needs and 
capable of understanding their requirements and aspira- 
tions. ^ So far, therefore, from the extension of European 
domination tending to hamper the activities of Muhammadan 
propagandists, it has to a very remarkable degree con- 
tributed towards the progress of Islam. The bringing of 
peace to countries formerly harassed by wars of extermina- 
tion or the raids of slave-hunters, the establishment of 
ordered methods of government and administration, and 
the increased facilities of communication by the making 
of roads and the building of railways, have given a great 
stimulus to trade and have enabled that active propagandist, 

^ Mohammedanism in Africa, by R. Bosworth Smith. (The Nineteenth 
Century, December 1887, pp. 798-800.) 
2 Le ChateHer, (3), p. 348. 


the Muslim trader, to extend his influence in districts 
previously untrodden, and traverse familiar ground with 
greater security. Further, the suppression of the slave- 
trade has removed one of the great obstacles to the spread 
of Islam in pagan Africa, because it was to the interest of the 
Arab and other Muhammadan slave-dealers not to narrow 
the field of their operations by admitting their possible 
victims into the brotherhood of Islam. ^ Converts are now 
won from pagan tribes which in the days of the slave-trade 
were untouched by missionary effort. To this result the 
European governments have contributed by employing 
Muhammadans to fill the subordinate posts in the civil 
administration (since among the Muhammadans alone were 
educated persons to be found) and distributing them 
throughout pagan districts, by emplo^dng Muhammadan 
teachers in the Government schools, and by recruiting their 
armies from among Muhammadan tribes; they have thus 
added to the prestige of Islam in the eyes of the pagan 
Africans — a circumstance that the Muslims have not been 
slow to make use of, to the advantage of their own faith. ^ 

So little truth is there in the statement that Islam makes 
progress only by force of arms,^ that on the contrary the 
partition of Africa among the European powers, who have 
wrested the sword from the hands of the Muslim chiefs 
now under their control, has initiated a propaganda which 
seems likely to succeed where centuries of Muhammadan 
domination have failed. 

^ Forget, p. 95. Merensky, p. 156. (" Den Vertretern des Islam aber 
stand ihr Vorteil, der Gewinn, den die Unterdriickung der Eingebornen 
bringt, hoher als die Aiisbreitung ihres Glaubens. Hatte man die Volker 
Afrikas durch die Macht geistiger Waffen unter giatigem Entgegenkommen 
zu Mohammedanern gemacht, so waren sie Glaubensgenossen, gleichberech- 
tige Briider, die man nicht mehr berauben, zu_ Sklaven macfien, oder als 
Sklaven nur Arbeit ausnutzen konnte.") 

^ Westermann, p. 643. L. de Contenson, p. 244. Kumm, p. 122. 

' Thus Merensky, discussing the failure of Islam to dominate the whole 
of Africa after centuries of occupation says : — " Wir sehen die Ursache fiir 
diese merkwiirdige Erscheinung in den Beziehungen, in denen bei den 
Mohammedanern die aussere Gewalt zum Islam und zur Ausbreitung des 
Islam steht. Beides steht und fallt miteinander, dringt miteinander vor 
und geht miteinander auch wieder zuriick." (p. 156.) 



The history of the Malay Archipelago during the last 
600 years furnishes us with one of the most interesting 
chapters in the story of the spread of Islam by missionary 
efforts. During the whole of this period we find evidences 
of a continuous activity on the part of the Muhammadan 
missionaries, in one or other at least of the East India 
islands. In every instance, in the beginning, their work 
had to be carried on without any patronage or assistance 
from the rulers of the country, but solely by the force of 
persuasion, and in many cases in the face of severe opposi- 
tion, especially on the part of the Spaniards. But in spite 
of all difficulties, and with varying success, they have 
prosecuted their efforts with untiring energy, perfecting 
their work (more especially in the present day) wherever it 
has been partial or insufficient. 

It is impossible to fix the precise date of the first intro- 
duction of Islam into the Malay Archipelago. It may have 
been carried thither by the Arab traders in the early 
centuries of the Hi j rah, long before we have any historical 
notices of such influences being at work. This supposition 
is rendered the more probable by the knowledge we have 
of the extensive commerce with the East carried on by the 
Arabs from very early times. In the second century B.C. 
the trade with Ceylon was wholly in their hands. At the 
beginning of the seventh century of the Christian era, the 
trade with China, through Ceylon, received a great impulse, 
so that in the middle of the eighth century Arab traders 
were to be found in great numbers in Canton ; while from 
the tenth to the fifteenth century, until the arrival of the 
Portuguese, they were undisputed masters of the trade with 



the East.i We may therefore conjecture with tolerable 
certainty that they must have established their commercial 
settlements on some of the islands of the Malay Archipelago, 
as they did elsewhere, at a very early period : though no 
mention is made of these islands in the works of the Arab 
geographers earlier than the ninth century, ^ yet in the 
Chinese annals, under the date a.d. 674, an account is given 
of an Arab chief, who from later notices is conjectured to 
have been the head of an Arab settlement on the west 
coast of Sumatra.^ 

Missionaries must also, however, have come to the Malay 
Archipelago from the south of India, judging from certain 
peculiarities of Muhammadan theology adopted by the 
islanders. Most of the Musalmans of the Archipelago 
belong to the Shafi'iyyah sect, which is at the present day 
predominant on the Coromandel and Malabar coasts, as 
was the case also about the middle of the fourteenth 
century when Ibn Batiitah visited these parts.* So when 
we consider that the Muhammadans of the neighbouring 
countries belong to the Hanafiyyah sect, we can only explain 
the prevalence of Shafi'iyyah teachings by assuming them to 
have been brought thither from the Malabar coast, the 
ports of which were frequented by merchants from Java, 
as well as from China, Yaman and Persia.^ From India, 
too, or from Persia, must have come the Shl'ism, of which 
traces are still found in Java and Sumatra. From Ibn 
Batiitah we learn that the Muhammadan Sultan of Samudra 
had entered into friendly relations with the court of Dehli, 
and among the learned doctors of the law whom this devout 
prince especially favoured, there were two of Persian 
origin, the one coming from Shiraz and the other from 
Ispahan.^ But long before this time merchants from the 
Deccan, through whose hands passed the trade between 
the Musalman states of India and the Malay Archipelago, 
had established themselves in large numbers in the trading 

1 Niemann, p. 337. 

* Reinaud : Geographic d'Aboulfeda, tome i. p. cccxxxix. 
' Groeneveldt, pp. 14, 15. 

* Ibn Batiitah, tome iv. pp. 66, 80. 

® Veth (3), vol. i. p. 231. Ibn Batiitah, tome iv. p. 89. 
« Ibn Batiitah, tome iv. pp. 230, 234. 


ports of these islands, where they sowed the seed of the new 

It is to the proselytising efforts of these Arab and Indian 
merchants that the native Muhammadan population, which 
we find already in the earliest historical notices of Islam in 
these parts, owes its existence. Settling in the centres of 
commerce, they intermarried with the people of the land, 
and these heathen wives and the slaves of their households 
thus formed the nucleus of a Muslim community which its 
members made every effort in their power to increase. 
The following description of the methods adopted by these 
merchant missionaries in the Philippine Islands, gives a 
picture of what was no doubt the practice of many preced- 
ing generations of Muhammadan traders : — " The better to 
introduce their religion into the country, the Muhammadans 
adopted the language and many of the customs of the 
natives, married their women, purchased slaves in order to 
increase their personal importance, and succeeded finally 
in incorporating themselves among the chiefs who held 
the foremost rank in the state. Since they worked together 
with greater ability and harmony than the natives, they 
gradually increased their power more and more, as having 
numbers of slaves in their possession, they formed a kind 
of confederacy among themselves and established a sort of 
monarchy, which they made hereditary in one family. 
Though such a confederacy gave them great power, yet 
they felt the necessity of keeping on friendly terms with 
the old aristocracy, and of ensuring their freedom to those 
classes whose support they could not afford to dispense 
with." 2 It must have been in some such way as this 
that the different Muhammadan settlements in the Malay 
Archipelago laid a firm political and social basis for their 
proselytising efforts. They did not come as conquerors, 
like the Spanish in the sixteenth century, or use the sword 
as an instrument of conversion; nor did they arrogate to 
themselves the privileges of a superior and dominant race 
so as to degrade and oppress the original inhabitants, but 
coming simply in the guise of traders they employed all 

1 Snouck Hurgronje (i), pp. 8-9. 

^ Padre Gainza, quoted by C. Semper, p. 67. 


their superior intelligence and civilisation in the service of 
their religion, rather than as a means towards their personal 
aggrandisement and the amassing of wealth. ^ With this 
general statement of the subsidiary means adopted by them, 
let us follow in detail their proselytising efforts through 
the various islands in turn. 

Tradition represents Islam as having been introduced into 
Sumatra from Arabia. But there is no sound historical 
basis for such a belief, and all the evidence seems to point 
to India as the source from which the people of Sumatra 
derived their knowledge of the new faith. Active com- 
mercial relations had existed for centuries between India 
and the Malay Archipelago, and the first missionaries to 
Sumatra were probably Indian traders. ^ There is, however, 
no historical record of their labours, and the Malav chronicles 
ascribe the honour of being the first missionary to Atjeh, 
in the north-west of Sumatra, to an Arab named 'Abd 
Allah 'Arif, who is said to have visited the island about 
the middle of the twelfth century; one of his disciples, 
Burhan al-Din, is said to have carried the knowledge of 
the faith down the west coast as far as Priaman.^ Un- 
trustworthy as this record is, it may yet possibly indicate 
the existence of some proselytising activity about this 
period ; for the Malay chronicle of Atjeh gives 1205 as 
the date of the accession of Jiihan Shah, the traditionary 
founder of the Muhammadan dynasty. He is said to have 
been a stranger from the West,^ and to have come to these 
shores to preach the faith of the Prophet ; he made many 
proselytes, married a wife from among the people of the 
country, and was hailed by them as their king, under the 
half-Sanskrit, half- Arabic title of Sri Paduka Sultan. For 
some time the new faith would in all probability have been 
confined to the ports at which Muhammadan merchants 
touched, and its progress inland would be slower, as here 

^ Crawfurd (2), vol. ii. p. 265. 

" Snouck Hurgronje : L' Arabic et les Indes Neerlandaises. (Revue de 
I'Histoire des Religions, vol. Ivii. p. 69 sqq.) 

^ De Hollander, vol. i. p. 581. Veth (i), p. 60. 

* This vague reference would fit either Arabia, Persia or India; but if 
such a person as Juhan Shah ever existed, he probably came from the 
Coromandel or Malabar coast. (Chronique du Royaume d'Atcheh, traduite 
du Malay par Ed. Dulaurier, p. 7.) 


it would come up against the strong Hindu influences that 
had their centre in the kingdom of Menangkabau. 

Marco Polo, who spent five months on the north coast 
of Sumatra in 1292, speaks of all the inhabitants being 
idolaters, except in the petty kingdom of Parlak on the north- 
east corner of the island, where, too, only the townspeople 
were Muhammadans, for " this kingdom, you must know, is 
so much frequented by the Saracen merchants that they have 
converted the natives to the Law of Mahommet," but the 
hill-people were all idolaters and cannibals.^ Further, one 
of the Malay chronicles says that it was Sultan 'All Mugjiayat 
Shah, who reigned over Atjeh from 1507 to 1522, who first 
set the example of embracing Islam, in which he was 
followed by his subjects. ^ But it is not improbable that 
the honour of being the first Muslim ruler of the state has 
been here attributed as an added glory to the monarch who 
founded the greatness of Atjeh and began to extend its 
sway over the neighbouring country, and that he rather 
effected a revival of, or imparted a fresh impulse to, the 
religious life of his subjects than gave to them their first 
knowledge of the faith of the Prophet. For Islam had 
certainly set firm foot in Sumatra long before his time. 
According to the traditionary account of the city of 
Samudra, the Sharif of Mecca sent a mission to convert the 
people of Sumatra. The leader of the party was a certain 
ShayMi Isma'il : the first place on the island at which they 
touched, after leaving Malabar, was Pasuri (probably 
situated a httle way down the west coast), the people of 
which were persuaded by their preaching to embrace 
Islam. They then proceeded northward to Lambri and 
then coasted round to the other side of the island and sailed 
as far down the east coast as Aru, nearl}^ opposite Malacca, 
and in both of these places their efforts were crowned with 
a like success. At Aru they made inquiries for Samudra, 
a city on the north coast of the island, which seems to have 
been the special object of their mission, and found that they 
had passed it. Accordingly they retraced their course to 
Parlak, where Marco Polo had found a Muhammadan 
community a few years before, and having gained fresh 

1 Marco Polo, vol. ii. p. 284. 2 Veth (i), p. 61. 


converts here also, they went on to Samudra. This city 
and the kingdom of the same name had lately been founded 
by a certain Mara Silu, who was persuaded by Shaykh Isma'il 
to embrace Islam, and took the name of al-Malik al-Salih. 
He married the daughter of the king of Parlak, by whom he 
had two sons, and in order to have a principality to leave : 
to each, he founded the Muhammadan city and kingdom 
of Pasei, also on the north coast. ^ 

The king, al-Malik al-^ahir, whom Ibn Batiitah found 
reigning in Samudra when he visited the island in 1345, was 
probably the elder of these two sons. This prince displayed 
all the state of Muhammadan royalty, and his dominions 
extended for many days' journey along the coast ; he was 
a zealous and orthodox Muslim, fond of holding discussions 
with jurisconsults and theologians, and his court was 
frequented by poets and men of learning. Ibn Batutah 
gives us the names of two jurisconsults who had come thither 
from Persia and also of a noble who had gone on an embassy 
to Dehli on behalf of the king — which shows that Sumatra 
was already in touch with several parts of the Muhammadan 
world. Al-Malik al-i^ahir was also a great general, and made 
war on the heathen of the surrounding country until they 
submitted to his rule and paid tribute. ^ 

Islam had undoubtedly by this time made great progress 
in Sumatra, and after having established itself along the 
coast, began to make its way inland. The mission of 
Shaykh Isma'il and his party had borne fruit abundantly, 
for a Chinese traveller who visited the island in 1413, speaks 
of Lambri as having a population of 1000 families, all of 
whom were MusHms " and very good people," while the 
king and people of the kingdom of Aru were all of the same 
faith. ^ It was either about the close of the same century 
or in the fifteenth century, that the religion of the Prophet 
found adherents in the great kingdom of Menangkabau, 
whose territory at one time extended from one shore to 
another, and over a great part of the island, north and south 
of the equator.* Though its power had by this time much 

^ Yule's Marco Polo, vol. ii. pp. 294, 303. 

* Ibn Batutah, tome iv. pp. 230-6. ' Groeneveldt, p. 94. 

* At the height of its power, it stretched from 2° N. to 2° S. on the west 
coast, and from 1° N. to 2° S. on the east coast, but in the sixteenth century 
it had lost its control over the east coast. (De Hollander, vol. i. p. 3.) 


declined, still as an ancient stronghold of Hinduism it 
presented great obstacles in the way of the progress of the 
new religion. Despite this fact, Islam eventually took 
firmer root among the subjects of this kingdom than among 
the majority of the inhabitants of the interior of the island.^ 
It is very remarkable that this, the most central people of 
the island, should have been more thoroughly converted 
than the inhabitants of so many other districts that were 
more accessible to foreign influences. To the present day 
the inhabitants of the Batak country are still, for the 
most part, heathen ; but Islam has gained a footing among 
them, e. g. some living on the borders of Atjeh have been 
converted, by their Muhammadan neighbours, 2 others 
dwelling in the mountains of the Rau country on the 
equator have likewise become Musalmans ; ^ on the east 
coast also conversions of Bataks, who come much in contact 
with Malays, are not uncommon.^ 

The fanatical Padris (p. 372) made strenuous efforts, in 
vain, to force Islam upon the Bataks at the point of the 
sword, lapng waste their country and putting many to 
death; but these violent methods did not win converts. 
When, however, the Dutch Government suppressed the 
Padri rising and annexed the southern part of the Batak 
country, Islam began to spread by peaceful means, chiefly 
through the zealous efforts of the native subordinate 
officials of the new regime, who were all Muhammadan 
Malays,^ but also through the influence of the traders who 
wandered through the country, whose proselytising activity 
was followed up by the hajis and other recognised teachers 
of the faith. It is a remarkable fact that the Bataks, 
who for centuries had offered a pertinacious resistance to 
the entrance of Islam into their midst, though they were 
hemmed in between two fanatical Muhammadan populations, 
the Achinese on the north and the Malays on the south, 
have in recent years responded with enthusiasm to the 

1 Marsden, p. 343. ^ J. H. Moor. (Appendix, p. i.) 

' Marsden, p. 355. 

* Godsdienstige verschijnselen en toestanden in Oost-Indie. (Uit de 
Koloniale Verslagen van 1886 en 1887.) Med. Ned. Zendelinggen, vol. 
xxxii. pp. 175-6. (1888.) In 1909, out of a total of 500,000 Bataks, 
300,000 were still pagan, but 125,000 were Muslim and 80,000 Christian. 
(R. du M. M., vol. viii. p. 183.) 

* J. Warneck : Die Religion der Batak, p. 122. (Leipzig, 1909.) 

B B 


peaceful efforts made for their conversion. An explanation 
would appear to be found in the breaking down of their 
exclusive national characteristics through the Dutch occupa- 
tion and the conquest opening up their country to foreign 
influences, which implied the commencement of a new era 
in their cultural development, as well as in the skilful 
procedure of the exponents of the new faith, who knew how 
to accommodate their teachings to the existing beliefs of 
the Bataks and their deep-rooted superstitions. ^ A con- 
siderable impulse seems to have been given to Mushm 
propaganda by the establishment of Christian missions 
among the Bataks in 1897, and they appear even to have 
paved the way for its success. Two Batak villages, the 
entire population of which had been baptised, are said to 
have gone over in a body to Islam shortly afterwards.'- 

In Central Sumatra there is still a large heathen popula- 
tion, though the majority of the inhabitants are MusHms; 
but these latter are very ignorant of their rehgion, with 
the exception of a few hajis and religious teachers : even 
among the people of Korintji, who are for the most part 
zealous adherents of the faith, there are certain sections 
of the population who still worship the gods of their pagan 
ancestors.^ Efforts are, however, being made towards a 
religious revival, and the Muslim missionaries are making 
fresh conquests from among the heathen, especially along 
the west coast. ^ In the district of Sipirok a rehgious 
teacher attached to the mosque in the town of the same 
name, in a quarter of a century, converted the whole 
population of this district to Islam, with the exception of the 
Christians who were to be found there, mostly descendants 
of former slaves, ^ and a later missionary movement in the 
first decade of the twentieth century succeeded in winning 
over to Islam many of the Christians of this district, even 

1 G. R. Simon : Die Propaganda des Halbmondes. Ein Beitrag zur 
Skizzierung des Islam unter den Batakken, pp. 425, 429-430. (Allgemeine 
Missions-Zeitschrift, vol. xxvii. 1900.) 

2 R. du M. M., vol. viii. (1909), p. 183. 

3 A. L. van Hassalt, pp. 55, 68. 

* Med. Ned. Zendelinggen, id. p. 173. (Koloniaal Verslag van 191 r, 
p. 26; 1912, p. 17.) 

5 Uit het Koloniaal Verslag van 1889. (Med. Ned. Zendelinggen, 
vol. xxxiv. p. 168.) (1890.) 


some living in the centre of the sphere of influence of the 
Christian mission.^ 

Islam is traditionally represented to have been introduced 
into Palembang about 1440 by Raden Rahmat, of whose 
propagandist activity an account will be given below 
(p. 381). But Hindu influences appear to have been 
firmly rooted here, and the progress of the new faith was 
slow. Even up to the nineteenth century the Mushms of 
Palembang were said to know little of their religion except 
the external observances of it, with the exception of the 
inhabitants of the capital who come into daily contact with 
Arabs ; ^ but in the first decade of the twentieth century 
there would appear to have been a revival of the religious 
life and a growing propaganda, as the Colonial Reports of 
the Dutch Government draw attention to the continual 
spread of Islam among the heathen population of various 
districts of Palembang. ^ 

It was from Java that Islam was first brought into the 
Lampong districts which form the southern extremity of 
Sumatra, by a chieftain of these districts, named Minak 
Kamala Bumi. About the end of the fifteenth century 
he crossed over the Strait of Sunda to the kingdom of 
Bantam on the west coast of Java, which had accepted the 
teachings of the Muslim missionaries a few years before the 
date of his visit ; here he, too, embraced Islam, and after 
making the pilgrimage to Mecca, spread the knowledge of 
his newly adopted faith among his fellow-countrymen.^ 
This religion has made considerable progress among the 
Lampongs, and most of the villages have mosques in them, 
but the old superstitions still linger on in parts of the 

In the early part of the nineteenth century a religious 
revival was set on foot in Sumatra, which was not without 
its influence in promoting the further propagation of Islam. 
In 1803 three Sumatran hajis returned from Mecca to their 
native country : during their stay in the holy city they had 

^ Koloniaal Verslag van 1910, p. 30. 
^ De Hollander, vol. i. p. 703. 

* Koloniaal Verslag van 1904, p. 80 ; 1905, p. 46 ; 1909, p, 47 ; 1910, p. 33 ; 
1911, p. 29; 1912, p. 21. 

* Canne, p. 510. Marsden, p. 301. 


been profoundly influenced by the Wahhabi movement for 
the reformation of Islam, and were now eager to introduce 
the same reforms among their fellow-countrymen and to 
stir up in them a purer and more zealous rehgious life. 
Accordingly they began to preach the strict monotheism 
of the Wahhabi sect, forbade prayers to saints, drinking and 
gambling and all other practices contrary to the law of the 
Qur'an. They made a number of prosel^^tes both from 
among their co-religionists and the heathen population. 
They later declared a Jihad against the Bataks, and in the 
hands of unscrupulous and ambitious men the movement 
lost its original character and degenerated into a savage and 
bloody war of conquest. In 1821 these so-called Padris 
came into conflict with the Dutch Government and it was 
not until 1838 that their last stronghold was taken and 
their power broken.^ 

All the civihsed Malays of the Malay Peninsula trace their 
origin to migrations from Sumatra, especially from Menang- 
kabau, the famous kingdom mentioned above, which is 
said at one time to have been the most powerful on the 
island ; some of the chiefs of the interior states of the southern 
part of the Mala}^ Peninsula still receive their investiture 
from this place. At what period these colonies from the 
heart of Sumatra settled in the interior of the Peninsula, 
is matter of conjecture, but Singapore and the southern 
extremity of the Peninsula seem to have received a colony 
in the middle of the twelfth century, by the descendants 
of which Malacca was founded about a century later. ^ 
From its advantageous situation, in the highway of eastern 
commerce it soon became a large and flourishing city, and 
there is little doubt but that Islam was introduced by the 
Muhammadan merchants who settled here.^ The Malay 
chronicle of Malacca assigns the conversion of this kingdom 
to the reign of a certain Sultan Muhammad Shah who came 
to the throne in 1276. He is said to have been reigning 

1 Niemann, pp. 356-9. ^ J. H. Moor, p. 255. 

^ " Depois que estes de induzidos por os Mouros Parseos, e Guzarates 
(que alii vieram residir por causa do commercio) , de Gentios os converteram 
a secta de Mahamed. Da qual conversao por alii concorrerem varias 
nagoes, come90u laurar esta inferna peste pela virzinhan9a de Malaca." 
(De Barros, Dec. ii. Liv. vi. cap. i. p. 15.) 


some years before a ship commanded by Sidi 'Abd al-'Aziz 
came to Malacca from Jiddah, and the king was persuaded 
by the new-comers to change his faith and to give up his 
Malay name for one containing the name of the Prophet. ^ 
But the general character of this document makes its 
trustworthiness exceedingly doubtful, ^ in spite of the 
likelihood that the date of so important an event would 
have been exactly noted (as was done in many parts of the 
Archipelago) by a people who, proud of the event, would 
look upon it as opening a new epoch in their history. A 
Portuguese historian gives a much later date, namely 1384, 
in which year, he says, a Qadi came from Arabia and having 
converted the king, gave him the name of Muhammad 
after the Prophet, adding Shah to it.^ 

In the annals of Queda, one of the northernmost of the 
states of the Malay Peninsula, we have a curious account 
of the introduction of Islam into this kingdom, about 
A.D. 1501,* which (divested of certain miraculous incidents) 
is as follows : A learned Arab, by name Shaykh 'Abd Allah, 
having come to Queda, visited the Raja and inquired what 
was the rehgion of the country. " My religion," replied 
the Raja, " and that of all my subjects is that which has 
been handed down to us by the people of old. We all 
worship idols." " Then has your highness never heard of 
Islam, and of the Qur'an which descended from God to 
Muhammad, and has superseded all other religions, leaving 
them in the possession of the devil ? " "I pray you then, 
if this be true," said the Raja, " to instruct and enlighten 
us in this new faith." In a transport of holy fervour at 
this request, ShayWi 'Abd Allah embraced the Raja and 
then instructed him in the creed. Persuaded by his teach- 
ing, the Raja sent for all his jars of spirits (to which he was 
much addicted), and with his own hands emptied them on 
the ground. After this he had all the idols of the palace 
brought out ; the idols of gold, and silver, and clay, and 

1 Aristide Marre : Malaka. Histoire des rois malays de Malaka. Traduit 
et extrait du Livre des Annales malayses, intitule en arabe Selalet al 
Selatyn, p. 8. (Paris, 1874.) 

* Crawfurd (i), pp. 241-2. ' De Barros, Dec. iv. Liv. ii. cap. i. 

* Barbosa, writing in 15 16, speaks of the numerous Muhammadan 
merchants that frequented the port of Queda. (Ramusio, torn. i. p. 317.) 


wood were all heaped up in his presence, and were all 
broken and cut to pieces by Shaykh 'Abd Allah with his 
sword and with an axe, and the fragments consumed in 
the fire. The Shaykh asked the Raja to assemble all his 
women of the fort and palace. When they had all come 
into the presence of the Raja and the Shaykh. they were 
initiated into the doctrines of Islam. The ShayMi was mild 
and courteous in his demeanour, persuasive and soft in his 
language, so that he gained the hearts of the inmates of the 
palace. The Raja soon after sent for his four aged ministers, 
who, on entering the hall, were surprised at seeing a Shaykh 
seated near the Raja. The Raja explained to them the 
object of the Shaykh's coming; whereupon the four chiefs 
expressed their readiness to follow the example of his high- 
ness, saying, " We hope that Shaykh 'Abd Allah will instruct 
us also." The latter hearing these words, embraced the 
four ministers and said that he hoped that, to prove their 
sincerity, they would send for all the people to come to 
the audience hall, bringing with them all the idols that they 
were wont to worship and the idols that had been handed 
down by the men of former days. The request was 
comphed with and all the idols kept by the people 
were at that very time brought down and there destroyed 
and burnt to dust ; no one was sorry at this demolition 
of their false gods, all were glad to enter the pale of Islam. 
Shaykh 'Abd Allah after this said to the four ministers, 
" What is the name of your prince ? " They rephed, " His 
name is Pra Ong Mahawangsa." " Let us change it for 
one in the language of Islam," said the Shaykh. After 
some consultation, the name of the Raja was changed at 
his request to Sultan Muzlaf al-Shah, because, the Shaykh 
averred, it is a celebrated name and is found in the Qur'an.^ 
The Raja now built mosques wherever the population 
was considerable, and directed that to each there should be 
attached forty-four of the inhabitants at least as a settled 
congregation, for a smaller number would have been few for 
the duties of religion. So mosques were erected and great 

1 'J'he form \^j^ does not actually occur in the Qur'an ; reference is 
probably made to some such passage as xxvi. 90 : ^^^^aI^XJ A-^J 1 OsaJjI^ 
" And paradise shall be brought near the pious." 


drums were attached to them to be beaten to call the people 
to prayer on Fridays. ShayWi 'Abd Allah continued for 
some time to instruct the people in the religion of Islam; 
they flocked to him from all the coasts and districts of 
Queda and its vicinity, and were initiated by him into its 
forms and ceremonies. 

The news of the conversion of the inhabitants of Queda 
by Shaykh 'Abd Allah reached Atjeh, and the Sultan of 
that country and a certain Shaykh Nur al-Din, an Arab 
missionary, who had come from Mecca, sent some books 
and a letter, which ran as follows : — " This letter is from 
the Sultan of Atjeh and Niir al-Dln to our brother the 
Sultan of Queda and Shaykh 'Abd Allah of Yaman, now in 
Queda. We have sent two religious books, in order that 
the faith of Islam may be firmly established and the people 
fully instructed in their duties and in the rites of the faith." 
A letter was sent in reply by the Raja and Shaykh 'Abd 
Allah, thanking the donors. So Shaykh 'Abd Allah re- 
doubled his efforts, and erected additional small mosques in 
all the different villages for general convenience, and in- 
structed the people in all the rules and observances of the 
faith. The Raja and his wife were constantly with the 
Shaykh. learning to read the Qur'an. The royal pair searched 
also for some maiden of the lineage of the Rajas of the 
country, to be the Shaykh's wife. But no one could be 
found who was willing to give his daughter thus in marriage 
because the holy man was about to return to Ba gh dad. 
and only waited until he had sufficiently instructed some 
person to supply his place. Now at this time the Sultan 
had three sons. Raja Mu'azzam Shah, Raja Muhammad 
Shah, and Raja Sulayman Shah. These names had been 
borrowed from the Qur'an by Shaykh 'Abd Allah and 
bestowed upon the princes, whom he exhorted to be 
patient and slow to anger in their intercourse with their 
slaves and the lower orders, and to regard with pity all 
the servants of God, and the poor and needy. ^ 

It must not be supposed that the labours of Shaykh 'Abd 
Allah were crowned with complete success, for we learn 

1 A translation of the Keddah Annals, by Lieut. -Col. James Low, vol. in. 
PP- 474-7- 


from the annals of Atjeh that a Sultan of this country who 
conquered Queda in 1649, ^^^ himself to " more firmly 
establish the faith and destroy the houses of the Liar " or 
temples of idols. ^ Thus a century and a half elapsed before 
idolatry was completely rooted out. 

We possess no other details of the history of the conversion 
of the Malays of the Peninsula, but in many places the graves 
of the Arab missionaries who first preached the faith to 
them are honoured by these people. ^ Their long intercourse 
with the Arabs and the Muslims of the east coast of India 
has made them very rigid observers of their religious duties, 
and they have the reputation of being the most exemplary 
Muhammadans of the Archipelago ; at the same time their 
constant contact with the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians 
and pagans of their own country has made them liberal 
and tolerant. They are very strict in the keeping of the 
fast of Ramadan and in performing the pilgrimage to Mecca. 
The religious interests of the people are always considered 
at the same time as their temporal welfare ; and when a 
village is found to contain more than forty houses and is 
considered to be of a size that necessitates its organisation 
and the appointment of the regular village officers, a public 
preacher is always included among the number and a mosque 
is formally built and instituted.^ 

In the north, where the Malay states border on Siam, 
Islam has exercised considerable influence on the Siamese 
Buddhists ; those who have here been converted are called 
Samsams and speak a language that is a mixed jargon of 
the languages of the two people.* Converts are also made 
from among the wild tribes of the Peninsula.^ 

The history of the spread of Islam in Indo-China is 
obscure ; Arab and Persian merchants probably introduced 
their religion into the sea-port towns from the tenth 
century onwards, but its most important expansion was 
due to the immigrations of Malays which began at the close 
of the fourteenth century.^ 

1 A translation of the Keddah Annals, by Lieut. -Col. James Low, vol. iii. 
p. 480. 

2 Newbold, vol. i. p. 252. ' McNair, pp. 226-9. 

* J. H. Moor, p. 242. ® Newbold, vol. ii. pp. 106, 396. 

^ R. du M. M., tome ii (1907), pp. 137-8. 


We must now go back several centuries in order to follow 
out the history of the conversion of Java. The preaching 
and promulgation of the doctrines of Islam in this island 
were undoubtedly for a long time entirely the result of the 
labours of individual merchants or of the leaders of small 
colonies, for in Java there was no central Muhammadan 
power to throw in its influence on the side of the new 
religion or enforce the acceptance of it by warlike means. 
On the contrary, the Muslim missionaries came in contact 
with a Hindu civilisation, that had thrust its roots deep 
into the life of the country and had raised the Javanese 
to a high level of culture and progress — expressing itself 
moreover in institutions and laws radically different to 
those of Arabia. Even up to the present day, the Mu- 
hammadan law has failed to establish itself absolutely, 
even where the authority of Islam is generally predominant, 
and there is still a constant struggle between the adherents 
of the old Malayan usages and the Hajis, who having made 
the pilgrimage to Mecca, return enthusiastic for a strict 
observance of Muslim Law. Consequently the work of 
conversion must have proceeded very slowly, and we can 
say with tolerable certainty that while part of the history 
of this proselytising movement may be disentangled from 
legends and traditions, much of it must remain wholly 
unknown to us. In the Malay Chronicle, which purports 
to give us an account of the first preachers of the faith, 
what was undoubtedly the work of many generations and 
must have been carried on through many centuries, is 
compressed within the compass of a few years; and, as 
frequently happens in popular histories, a few well-known 
names gain the fame and credit that belongs of right to the 
patient labours of their unknown predecessors.^ Further, 
the quiet, unobtrusive labours of many of these missionaries 
would not be likely to attract the notice of the chronicler, 
whose attention would naturally be fixed rather on the 
doings of kings and princes, and of those who came in close 
relationship to them. But failing such larger knowledge, 
we must fain be content with the facts that have been, 
handed down to us. 

^ Snouck Hurgronje (i), p. 9. 


In the following pages, therefore, it is proposed to give 
a brief sketch of the establishment of the Muhammadan 
religion in this island, as presented in the native chronicle, 
which, though full of contradictions and fables, has un- 
doubtedly a historical foundation, as is attested by the 
inscriptions on the tombs of the chief personages mentioned 
and the remains of ancient cities, etc. The following 
account therefore may, in the want of any other authorities, 
be accepted as substantially correct, with the caution above 
mentioned against ascribing too much efficacy to the 
proselytising efforts of individuals. 

The first attempt to introduce Islam into Java was made 
by a native of the island about the close of the twelfth 
century. The first king of Pajajaran, a state in the western 
part of the island, left two sons ; of these, the elder chose to 
follow the profession of a merchant and undertook a trading 
expedition to India, leaving the kingdom to his younger 
brother, who succeeded to the throne in the year 1190 with 
the title of Prabu Munding Sari. In the course of his 
wanderings, the elder brother fell in with some Arab 
merchants, and was by them converted to Islam, taking the 
name of Haji Purwa. 

On his return to his native country, he tried with the help 
of an Arab missionary to convert his brother and the royal 
family to his new faith ; but, his efforts proving unsuccessful, 
he fled into the jungle for fear of the king and his unbelieving 
subjects, and we hear no more of him.^ 

In the latter half of the fourteenth century, a missionary 
movement, which was attended with greater success, was 
instituted by a certain Mawlana Malik Ibrahim, who landed 
on the east coast of Java with some of his co-religionists, 
and established himself near the town of Gresik, opposite 
the island of Madura. He is said to have traced his descent 
to Zayn al-'Abidm, a great-grandson of the Prophet, and 
to have been cousin of the Raja of Chermen.^ Here he 
occupied himself successfully in the work of conversion, and 
speedily gathered a small band of believers around him. 

^ Veth (3), vol. i. p. 215. Raffles (ed. of 1830), vol. ii. pp. 103, 104, 183. 

* The situation of Chermen is not certain. Veth (3), vol. i. p. 230, 
conjectures that it may have been in India, but Rouflaer (p. 113") gives 
good reasons for placing it in Sumatra. 


Later on, he was joined by his cousin, the Raja of Chermen, 
who came in the hope of converting the Raja of the Hindu 
Kingdom of Majapahit, and of forming an alhance with him 
by offering his daughter in marriage. On his arrival he 
sent his son, Sadiq Muhammad, to Majapahit to arrange an 
interview, while he busied himself in the building of a 
mosque and the conversion of the inhabitants. A meeting 
of the two princes took place accordingly, but before the 
favourable impression then produced could be followed up, 
a sickness broke out among the people of the Raja of Cher- 
men, which carried off his daughter, three of his nephews 
who had accompanied him, and a great part of his retinue ; 
whereupon he himself returned to his own kingdom. These 
misfortunes prejudiced the mind of the Raja of Majapahit 
against the new faith, which he said should have better 
protected its votaries : and the mission accordingly failed. 
Mawlana Ibrahim, however, remained behind, in charge of 
the tombs 1 of his kinsfolk and co-religionists, and himself 
died twenty-one years later, in 1419, and was buried at 
Gresik, where his tomb is still venerated as that of the first 
apostle of Islam to Java. 

A Chinese Musalman, who accompanied the envoy of the 
Emperor of China to Java in the capacity of interpreter, 
six years before the death of Mawlana Ibrahim, i. e. in 1413, 
mentions the presence of his co-religionists in this island in 
his " General Account of the Shores of the Ocean," where 
he says, " In this country there are three kinds of people. 
First the Muhammadans, who have come from the west, 
and have established themselves here ; their dress and food 
is clean and proper; second, the Chinese who have run 
away and settled here ; what they eat and use is also very 
fine, and many of them have adopted the Muhammadan 
religion and observe its precepts. The third kind are the 
natives, who are very ugly and uncouth, they go about 
with uncombed heads and naked feet, and believe devoutly 
in devils, theirs being one of the countries called devil- 
countries in Buddhist books." ^ 

1 A description of the present condition of these tombs, on one of which 
traces of an inscription in Arabic characters are still visible, is given by 
J. F. G. Brumund, p. 185. 

^ Groeneveldt, pp. vii. 49-50. 


We now approach the period in which the rule of the 
Muhammadans became predominant in the island, after 
their religion had been introduced into it for nearly a 
century ; and here it will be necessary to enter a httle more 
closely into the details of the history in order to show that 
this was not the result of any fanatical movement stirred 
up by the Arabs, but rather of a revolution carried out by 
the natives of the country themselves,^ who (though they 
naturally gained strength from the bond of a common 
faith) were stirred up to unite in order to wrest the supreme 
power from the hands of their heathen fellow-countrymen, 
not by the preaching of a religious war, but through the 
exhortations of an ambitious aspirant to the throne who 
had a wrong to avenge. ^ 

The poHtical condition of the island may be described as 
follows : — The central and eastern provinces of the island, 
which were the most wealthy and populous and the furthest 
advanced in civilisation, were under the sway of the Hindu 
kingdom of Majapahit. Further west were Cheribon and 
several other petty, independent princedoms ; while the rest 
of the island, including all the districts at its western 
extremity, was subject to the King of Pajajaran. 

The King of Majapahit had married a daughter of the 
prince of Champa, a small state in Cambodia, east of the 
Gulf of Siam.3 She being jealous of a favourite concubine 
of the King, he sent this concubine away to his son Arya 
Damar, governor of Palembang in Sumatra, where she gave 
birth to a son, Raden Patah, who was brought up as one 
of the governor's own children. This child (as we shall see) 
was destined in after years to work a terrible vengeance 
for the cruel treatment of his mother. Another daughter 
of the prince of Champa had married an Arab who had 
come to Champa to preach the faith of Islam.* From this 
union was born Raden Rahmat, who was carefully brought 
up by his father in the Muhammadan religion and is still 

^ Kern, p. 21. 

* Veth (3), vol. i. pp. 233-42. Raffles, vol. ii. pp. 113-33. 

' Rouffaer, however, places this Champa, not in Cambodia, but on the 
north coast of Atjeh and identifies it with the modern Djeumpa. (Encyclo- 
paedie van N.-L, vol. iv. p. 206.) 

* Remains of minarets and Muhammadan tombs are still to be found 
in Champa, (Bastian, vol. i. pp. 498-9.) 


venerated by the Javanese as the chief apostle of Islam to 
their country.^ 

When he reached the age of twenty, his parents sent him 
with letters and presents to his uncle, the King of Majapahit. 
On his way, he stayed for two months at Palembang, as 
the guest of Arya Damar, whom he almost persuaded to 
become a Musalman, only he dared not openly profess Islam 
for fear of the people who were strongly attached to 
their ancient superstitions. Continuing his journey Raden 
Rahmat came to Gresik, where an Arab missionary, Shaykh 
Mawlana Jumada '1-Kubra, hailed him as the promised 
Apostle of Islam to East Java, and foretold that the fall 
of paganism was at hand, and that his labours would 
be crowned by the conversion of many to the faith. 
At Majapahit he was very kindly received by the King 
and the princess of Chamba. Although the King was 
unwilling himself to become a convert to Islam, yet he con- 
ceived such an attachment and respect for Raden Rahmat, 
that he made him governor over 3000 families at Ampel, 
on the east coast, a little south of Gresik, allowed him the 
free exercise of his religion and gave him permission to 
make converts. Here after some time he gained over most 
of those placed under him, to Islam. 

Ampel was now the chief seat of Islam in Java, and the 
fame of the ruler who was so zealously working for the 
propagation of his religion, spread far and wide. Hereupon 

^ This genealogical table will make clear these relationships, as well as 
others referred to later in the text : — 

King of Champa. 

a daughter 

A concubine = Angka Wijaya = Darawati 
king of Majapahit ] 

Arya Damar 

Raden Husayn 

a daughter = an Arab missionary 

Raden Patah = a daughter 

Raden Rahmat. 

a daughter = Raden 


a certain Mawlana Ishaq came to Ampel to assist him in 
the work of conversion, and was assigned the task of spread- 
ing the faith in the kingdom of Balambangan, in the 
extreme eastern extremity of the island. Here he cured the 
daughter of the King, who was grievously sick, and the 
grateful father gave her to him in marriage. She ardently 
embraced the faith of Islam and her father allowed himself 
to receive instruction in the same, but when the Mawlana 
urged him to openly profess it, as he had promised to do, 
if his daughter were cured, he drove him from his kingdom, 
and gave orders that the child that was soon to be born of 
his daughter, should be killed. But the mother secretly 
sent the infant away to Gresik to a rich Muhammadan 
widow ^ who brought him up with aU a mother's care and 
educated him until he was twelve years old, when she en- 
trusted him to Raden Rahmat. He, after learning the 
history of the child, gave him the name of Raden Paku, and 
in course of time gave him also his daughter in marriage. 
Raden Paku afterwards built a mosque at Giri, to the 
south-west of Gresik, where he converted thousands to 
the faith ; his influence became so great, that after the 
death of Raden Rahmat, the King of Majapahit made him 
governor of Ampel and Gresik. ^ Meanwhile several missions 
were instituted from Gresik. Two sons of Raden Rahmat 
established themselves at different parts of the north-east 
coast and made themselves famous by their religious zeal 
and the conversion of many of the inhabitants of those parts. 
Raden Rahmat also sent a missionary, by name Shaykh 
Ivhalifah Husayn, across to the neighbouring island of 
Madura, where he built a mosque and won over many to 
the faith. 

We must now return to Arya Damar, the governor of 
Palembang. (See p. 380.) He appears to have brought 
up his children in the religion which he himself feared openly 
to profess, and he now sent Raden Patah, when he had 
reached the age of twenty, together with his foster-brother, 
Raden Husayn, who was two years younger, to Java, where 

^ The memory of this woman is held in great honour by the Javanese, 
and many come to pray by her grave. See Brumund, p. 186. 
2 Veth (3), vol. i. pp. 235-6. 


they landed at Gresik. Raden Patah, aware of his extrac- 
tion and enraged at the cruel treatment his mother 
had received, refused to accompany his foster-brother to 
Majapahit, but stayed with Raden Rahmat at Ampel while 
Raden Husayn went on to the capital, where he was well 
received and placed in charge of a district and afterwards 
made general of the army. 

Meanwhile Raden Patah married a granddaughter of 
Raden Rahmat, and formed an establishment in a place 
of great natural strength called Bintara, in the centre of 
a marshy country, to the west of Gresik. As soon as the 
King of Majapahit heard of this new settlement, he sent 
Raden Husayn to persuade his brother to come to the 
capital and pay homage. This Raden Husayn prevailed 
upon him to do, and he went to the court, where his likeness 
to the king was at once recognised, and where he was kindly 
received and formally appointed governor of Bintara. 
Still burning for revenge and bent on the destruction of his 
father's kingdom, he returned to Ampel, where he revealed 
his plans to Raden Rahmat. The latter endeavoured to 
moderate his anger, reminding him that he had never re- 
ceived anything but kindness at the hands of the king of 
Majapahit, his father, and that while the prince was so 
]ust and so beloved, his religion forbade him to make war 
upon or in any way to injure him. However, unpersuaded 
by these exhortations (as the sequel shows), Raden Patah 
returned to Bintara, which was now daily increasing in 
importance and population, while great numbers of people 
in the surrounding country were being converted to Islam. 
He had formed a plan of building a great mosque, but 
shortly after the work had been commenced, news arrived 
of the severe illness of Raden Rahmat. He hastened to 
Ampel, where he found the chief missionaries of Islam 
gathered round the bed of him they looked upon as their 
leader. Among them were the two sons of Raden Rahmat 
mentioned above (p. 382), Raden Paku of Giri, and five 
others. A few days afterwards Raden Rahmat breathed 
his last, and the only remaining obstacle to Raden Patah's 
revengeful schemes was thus removed. The eight chiefs 
accompanied him back to Bintara, where they assisted in 


the completion of the mosque/ and bound themselves by 
a solemn oath to assist him in his attempt against Majapahit. 
All the Muhammadan princes joined this confederacy, with 
the exception of Raden Husayn, who with all his followers 
remained true to his master, and refused to throw in his 
lot with his rebellious co-rehgionists. 

A lengthy campaign followed, into the details of which we 
need not enter, but in 1478,2 after a desperate battle which 
lasted seven days, Majapahit fell and the Hindu supremac}^ 
in eastern Java was replaced by a Muhammadan power. 
A short time after, Raden Husayn was besieged with his 
followers in a fortified place, compelled to surrender and 
brought to Ampel, where he was kindly received by his 
brother. A large number of those who remained faithful 
to the old Hindu religion fled in 1481 to the island of Bali, 
where the worship of Siva is still the prevailing religion. ^ 
Others seem to have formed small kingdoms, under the 
leadership of princes of the house of Majapahit, which re- 
mained heathen for some time after the fall of the great 
Hindu capital. 

Even under Muslim chiefs the population of central 
Java long remained heathen, and the progress of Islam 
southward from the early centres of missionary effort on 
the north coast was the work of centuries ; even to the 
present day the influence of their old Hindu faith is strikingly 

* This mosque is still standing and is looked upon by the Javanese as 
one of the most sacred objects in their island. 

^ There seems little doubt that this date is too early. A study of the 
Portuguese authorities points to the conclusion that Majapahit did not 
fall until forty years later. (Rouffaer, p. 144.) 

^ The people of the Bali to the present day have resisted the most 
zealous efforts of the Muhammadans to induce them to accept the faith 
of Islam, though from time to time conversions have been made and a 
small native Muhammadan community has been formed, numbering 
about 3000 souls out of a population of over 862,000. The favour- 
able situation of the island for purposes of trade has always attracted a 
number of foreigners to its shores, who have in many cases taken up 
a permanent residence in the island. While some of these settlers have 
always held themselves aloof from the natives of the country, others have 
formed matrimonial alliances with them and have consequently become 
merged into the mass of the population. It is owing to the efforts of 
the latter that Islam has made this very slow but sure progress, and the 
Muhammadans of Bali are said to form an energetic and flourishing com- 
munity, full of zeal for the promotion of their faith, which at least impresses 
their pagan neighbours, though not successful in persuading them to 
deny their favourite food of swine's flesh for the sake of the worship of 
Allah. (Liefrinck, pp. 241-3.) 


manifest in the religious notions of the MusHm population 
of central Java. One remarkable evidence of the deep 
roots that Hinduism had struck in this part of the island 
is the fact that it was not until 1768 that the authority of 
the Hindu law-books, particularly the code of Manu, gave 
way before a code of laws more in accordance with the 
spirit of Muslim legislation.^ 

Islam was introduced into the eastern parts of the island 
some years later, probably in the beginning of the following 
century, through the missionary activity of Shayjdi Nur 
al-Din Ibrahim of Cheribon. He won for himself a great 
reputation by curing a woman afflicted with leprosy, with 
the result that thousands came to him to be instructed in 
the tenets of the new faith. At first the neighbouring chiefs 
tried to set themselves against the movement, but finding 
that their opposition was of no avail, they suffered them- 
selves to be carried along with the tide and many of them 
became converts to Islam. ^ ShayMi Niir al-Din Ibrahim 
of Cheribon sent his son, Mawlana Hasan al-Din, to preach 
the faith of Islam in Bantam, the most westerly province 
of the island, and a dependency of the heathen kingdom of 
Pajajaran. Here his efforts were attended with considerable 
success, among the converts being a body of ascetics, 800 
in number. It is especially mentioned in the annals of this 
part of the country that the young prince won over those 
whom he converted to Islam, solely by the gentle means 
of persuasion, and not by the sword. ^ He afterwards went 
with his father on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and on his return 
extended his power over the neighbouring coast of Sumatra, 
without ever having to draw the sword, and winning 
converts to the faith by peaceful methods alone.* 

But the progress of Islam in the west of Java seems to 
have been much slower than in the east; a long struggle 
ensued between the worshippers of Siva and the followers 
of the Prophet, and it was probably not until the middle 
of the sixteenth century that the Hindu kingdom of 
Pajajaran, which at one period of the history of Java seems 

^ Encyclopaedie van N.-I., vol. ii. p. 523. 

- Veth (3), vol. i. pp. 245, 284. 

* Raffles, vol. ii. p. 316. * Veth (3), vol. 1. pp. 285-6. 



to have exercised suzerainty over the princedoms in the 
western part of the island, came to an end/ while other 
smaller heathen communities survived to a much later 
period, 2 — some even to the present day. The history of 
one of these — the so-called Baduwis — is of especial interest ; 
they are the descendants of the adherents of the old rehgion, 
who after the fall of Pajajaran fled into the woods and the 
recesses of the mountains, where they might uninterruptedly 
carry out the observances of their ancestral faith. In later 
times, when they submitted to the rule of the Musalman 
Sultan of Bantam, they were allowed to continue in the 
exercise of their religion, on condition that no increase 
should be allowed in the numbers of those who professed 
this idolatrous faith ; ^ and strange to say, they still observe 
this custom, although the Dutch rule has been so long 
established in Java and sets them free from the necessity 
of obedience to this ancient agreement. They strictly 
limit their number to forty households, and when the 
community increases beyond this limit, one family or more 
has to leave this inner circle and settle among the Mu- 
hammadan population in one of the surrounding villages.* 
But, though the work of conversion in the west of Java 
proceeded more slowly than in the other parts of the island, 
yet, owing largely to the fact that Hinduism had not taken 
such deep root among the people here as in the centre of 
the island, the victory of Islam over the heathen worship 
which it supplanted was more complete than in the districts 
which came more immediately under the rule of the Rajas 
of Majapahit. The Muhammadan law is here a hving 
force and the civilisation brought into the country from 
Arabia has interwoven itself with the government and the 
life of the people; and it has been remarked that at the 
present day the Muhammadans of the west of Java, who 
stud}^ their religion at all or have performed the pilgrim- 
age to Mecca, form as a rule the most intelligent and 
prosperous part of the population.^ 

1 Veth (3), vol. i. pp. 305, 318-9. 

- A traveller in Java in 1596 mentions two or three heathen kingdoms 
with a large heathen popalacion. (Niemann, p. 342.) 

' Raffles, vol. ii. pp. 132-3. * Metzger, p. 279. 

* L. W. C. van den Berg (i), pp. 35-6. C. Poensen, pp. 3-8. 


We have already seen that large sections of the Javanese 
remained heathen for centuries after the establishment of 
Muhammadan kingdoms in the island; at the present day 
the whole population of Java, with some trifling exceptions, 
is Muhammadan, and though many superstitions and 
customs have survived among them from the days of 
their pagan ancestors, still the tendency is continually in 
the direction of the guidance of thought and conduct in 
accordance with the teaching of Islam. This long work of 
conversion has proceeded peacefully and gradually, and the 
growth of Muslim states in this island belongs rather to 
its political than to its religious history, since the progress 
of the religion has been achieved by the work rather of 
missionaries than of princes. 

While the Musalmans of Java were plotting against the 
Hindu Government and taking the rule of the country into 
their own hands by force, a revolution of a wholly peaceful 
character was being carried on in other parts of the Archi- 
pelago through the preaching of the Muslim missionaries 
who were slowly but surely achieving success in their 
proselytising efforts. Let us first turn our attention to 
the history of this propagandist movement in the Molucca 

The trade in cloves must have brought the Moluccas into 
contact with the islanders of the western half of the Archi- 
pelago from very early times, and the converted Javanese 
and other Malays who came into these islands to trade, 
spread their faith among the inhabitants of the coast. ^ 
The companions of Magellan brought back a curious story 
of the way in which these men introduced their religious 
doctrines among the Muluccans. " The kings of these 
islands ^ a few years before the arrival of the Spaniards 

^ De Barros, Dec. iii. Liv. v. Cap. v. pp. 579-80. Argensola, p. 11 B. 

" At this period, the Moluccas were for the most part under the rule of 
four princes, viz. those of Ternate, Tidor, Gilolo and Batjan. The first 
was by far the most powerful : his territory extended over Ternate and 
the neighbouring small islands, a portion of Halemahera, a considerable 
part of Celebes, Amboina and the Banda islands. The Sultan of Tidor 
ruled over Tidor and some small neighbouring islands, a portion of Halema- 
hera, the islands lying between it and New Guinea, together with the 
west coast of the latter and a part of Ceram. The territory of the Sultan 
of Gilolo seems to have been confined to the central part of Halemahera 
and to a part of the north coast of Ceram; while the Sultan of Batjan 
ruled chiefly over the Batjan and Obi groups. (De Hollander, vol. i. p. 5.) 


began to believe in the immortality of the soul, induced by 
no other argument but that they had seen a very beautiful 
little bird, that never settled on the earth nor on anything 
that was of the earth, and the Mahometans, who traded as 
merchants in those islands, told them that this little bird 
was born in paradise, and that paradise is the place where 
rest the souls of those that are dead. And for this reason 
these seignors joined the sect of Mahomet, because it 
promises many marvellous things of this place of the souls." ^ 

Islam seems first to have begun to make progress here 
in the fifteenth century. A heathen king of Tidor yielded 
to the persuasions of an Arab, named Shaykh Mansur, and 
embraced Islam together with many of his subjects. The 
heathen name of the king, Tjireli Lijatu, was changed to 
that of Jamal al-Din, while his eldest son was called Mansiir 
after their Arab teacher. ^ It was the latter prince who 
entertained the Spanish expedition that reached Tidor in 
1521, shortly after the ill-fated death of Magellan. Piga- 
fetta, the historian of this expedition, calls him Raia 
Sultan Mauzor, and says that he was more than fifty-five 
years old, and that not fifty years had passed since the 
Muhammadans came to live in these islands.^ 

Islam seems to have gained a footing on the neighbouring 
island of Ternate a little earlier. The Portuguese, who came 
to this island the same year as the Spaniards reached Tidor, 
were informed by the inhabitants that it had been intro- 
duced a little more than eighty years. ^ 

According to the Portuguese account ^ also the Sultan of 
Ternate was the first of the Muluccan chieftains who became 
a Mushm. The legend of the introduction of Islam into 
this island tells how a merchant, named Datu Mulla Husayn, 
excited the curiosity of the people by reading the Qur'an 
aloud in their presence ; they tried to imitate the characters 
written in the book, but could not read them, so they asked 
the merchant how it was that he could read them, while 

1 Massimiliano Transilvano. (Ramusio, torn. i. p. 351 D.) 
- P. J. B. C. Robide van der Aa, p. 18. 
^ Pigafetta, tome i. pp. 365, 368. 

* " Segundo a conta que elles dam, ao tempo que os nossos descubriram 
aquellas Ilhas, haveria pouco mais de oitenta annos, que nellas tinha 
entradaesta paste." (J.deBarros: Da Asia, Dec. iii. Liv. v. Cap. v. p. 580.) 

* De Barros, id. ib. 


they could not; he rephed that they must first believe in 
God and His Apostle; whereupon they expressed their 
willingness to accept his teaching, and became converted 
to the faith. 1 The Sultan of Ternate, who occupied the 
foremost place among the independent rulers in these 
islands, is said to have made a journey to Gresik, in Java, 
in order to embrace the Muhammadan faith there, in 1495.^ 
He was assisted in his propagandist efforts by a certain 
Pati Putah, who had made the journey from Hitu in Amboina 
to Java in order to learn the doctrines of the new faith, and 
on his return spread the knowledge of Islam among the 
people of Amboina.^ Islam, however, seems at first to 
have made but slow progress, and to have met with 
considerable opposition from those islanders who clung 
zealously to their old superstitions and mythology, so 
that the old idolatry continued for some time crudely 
mixed up with the teachings of the Qur'an, and keep- 
ing the minds of the people in a perpetual state of 
incertitude.* The Portuguese conquest also made the 
progress of Islam slower than it would otherwise have 
been. They drove out the Qadi, whom they found 
instructing the people in the doctrines of Muhammad, 
and spread Christianity among the heathen population 
with some considerable, though short-lived success.^ For 
when the Muluccans took advantage of the attention 
of the Portuguese being occupied with their own domestic 
troubles, in the latter half of the sixteenth century, to 
try to shake off their power, they instituted a fierce 
persecution against the Christians, many of whom suffered 
martyrdom, and others recanted, so that Christianity 
lost all the ground it had gained,'^ and from this time 
onwards, the opposition to the political domination of the 
Christians secured a readier welcome for the Muslim teachers 
who came in increasing numbers from the west.^ The Dutch 

1 Simon, p. 13. ^ Bokemeyer, p. 39. ^ Simon, p. 13. 

« Argensola, pp. 3-4. « Id. p. 15 B. « Id. pp. 97, 98. 

' Id. pp. 155 and 158, where he calls Ternate " este receptaculo de setas, 
donde tienen escuela todas las apostasias; y particularmente los torpes 
sequazes de Mahoma. Y desde el anno de mil y quinientos y ochenta y 
cinco, en que los Holandeses tentaron aquellos mares, hasta este tiempo 
no han cessado de traer sectarios, y capitanes pyratas. Estos llevan las 
riquezas de Assia, y en su lugar dexan aquella falsa dotrina, con que hazen 
infrutuosa la conversion de tantas almas," 


completed the destruction of Christianity in the Moluccas 
by driving out the Spanish and Portuguese from these 
islands in the seventeenth century, whereupon the Jesuit 
fathers carried off the few remaining Christians of Ternate 
with them to the Philippines. ^ 

From these islands Islam spread into the rest of the 
Moluccas ; though for some time the conversions were con- 
fined to the inhabitants of the coast. ^ Most of the converts 
came from among the Malays, who compose the whole 
population of the smaller islands, but inhabit the coast-lands 
only of the larger ones, the interior being inhabited by Alfurs. 
But converts in later times were drawn from among the 
latter also.^ Even so early as 1521, there was a Muham- 
madan king of Gilolo, a kingdom on the western side of the 
northern limb of the island of Halemahera.* In modern 
times the existence of certain regulations, devised for the 
benefit of the state-religion, has facilitated to some extent 
the progress of the Muhammadan religion among the Alfurs 
of the mainland, e.g. if any one of them is discovered to have 
had illicit intercourse with a Muhammadan girl, he must 
marry her and become a Muslim ; any of the Alfur women 
who marry Muhammadans must embrace the faith of their 
husbands ; offences against the law may be atoned for by 
conversion to Islam ; and in filling up any vacancy that may 
happen to occur among the chiefs, less regard is paid to the 
lawful claims of a candidate than to his readiness to become 
a Musalman.^ 

Similarly, Islam in Borneo is mostly confined to the coast, 
although it had gained a footing in the island as early as the 
beginning of the sixteenth century. About this time, it 
was adopted by the people of Banjarmasin, a kingdom on 
the southern side, which had been tributary to the Hindu 
kingdom of Majapahit, until its overthrow in 1478 ; ^ they 
owed their conversion to one of the Muhammadan states 
that rose on the ruins of the latter.' The story is that the 

1 Their descendants are still to be found in the province of Cavite in the 
island of Luzon. (Crawfurd (i), p. 85.) 

" W. F. Andriessen, p. 222. ' T. Forrest, p. 68. 

' Pigafetta. (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 366.) 

* Campen, p. 346. Koloniaal Verslag van 1910, p. 56; igir, p. 52. 

" Dulaurier, p. 528. 

' Damak, on the north coast of Java, opposite the south of Borneo. 


people of Banjarmasin asked for assistance towards the 
suppression of a revolt, and that it was given on condition 
that they adopted the new religion ; whereupon a number 
of Muhammadans came over from Java, suppressed the revolt 
and effected the work of conversion.^ On the north-west 
coast, the Spaniards found a Muhammadan king at Brunai, 
when they reached this place in 1521.2 A little later, 1550, 
it was introduced into the kingdom of Sukadana,^ in the 
western part of the island, by Arabs coming from Palembang 
in Sumatra.* The reigning king refused to abandon the 
faith of his fathers, but during the forty years that elapsed 
before his death (in 1590), the new religion appears to 
have made considerable progress. His successor became a 
Musalman and married the daughter of a prince of a neigh- 
bouring island, in which apparently Islam had been long 
estabhshed;5 during his reign, a traveller,^ who visited the 
island in 1600, speaks of Muhammadanism as being a 
common rehgion along the coast. The inhabitants of the 
interior, however, he tells us, were all idolaters — as indeed 
they remain for the most part to the present day. The 
progress of Islam in the kingdom of Sukadana seems 
now to have drawn the attention of the centre of the Muham- 
madan world to this distant spot, and in the reign of the next 
prince, a certain ShayMi Shams al-DIn came from Mecca 
bringing with him a present of a copy of the Qur'an and a 
large hyacinth ring, together with a letter in which this 
defender of the faith received the honourable title of Sultan 
Muhammad Safi al-Din.' 

In the latter part of the eighteenth century one of the in- 
land tribes, called the Idaans, dwelling in the interior of north 
Borneo, is said to have looked upon the Muhammadans of 

1 Hageman, pp. 236-9. 

2 Pigafetta. (Rami;sio, torn. i. pp. 363-4-) 

3 This kingdom had been founded by a colony from the Hindu kingdom 
of Majapahit (De Hollander, vol. ii. p. 67), and would naturally have come 
under Muslim influence after the conversion of the Javanese. 

* Dozy (i), p. 385. 

^ Veth (2), vol. i. p. 193. 

« Ohvier de Noort. (Histoire generale des voyages, vol. xiv. p. 225.) 
(The Hague, 1756.) 

' i.e. Pure in Religion; he died about 1677; his father does not seem 
to have taken a Muhammadan name, at least he is only known by his 
heathen name of Panembahan Giri-Kusuma. (Netscher, pp. 14-15-) 


the coast with very great respect, as having a rehgion which 
they themselves had not yet got.^ Dahymple, who obtained 
his information on the Idaans of Borneo during his visit to 
Suhi from 1761 to 1764, tells us that they " entertain a just 
regret of their own ignorance, and a mean idea of themselves 
on that account ; for, when they come into the houses, or 
vessels, of the Mahometans, they pay them the utmost 
veneration, as superior intelligences, who know their 
Creator; they will not sit down where the Mahometans 
sleep, nor will they put their fingers into the same chunam, 
or betel box, but receive a portion with the utmost humility, 
and in every instance denote, with the most abject attitudes 
and gesture, the veneration they entertain for a God un- 
known, in the respect they pay to those who have a know- 
ledge of Him." 2 These people appear since that time to 
have embraced the Muhammadan faith, ^ one of the numerous 
instances of the powerful impression that Islam produces 
upon tribes that are low down in the scale of civilisation. 
From time to time other accessions have been gained in the 
persons of the numerous colonists, Arabs, Bugis and Malays, 
as well as Chinese (who have had settlements here since the 
seventh century),^ and of the slaves introduced into the 
island from different countries ; so that at the present day 
the Muhammadans of Borneo are a very mixed race.^ Many 
of these foreigners were still heathen when they first came 
to Borneo, and of a higher civilisation than the Dyaks whom 
they conquered or drove into the interior, where they mostly 
still remain heathen, except in the western part of the island, 
in which from time to time small tribes of Dyaks embrace 
Islam.^ When the pagan Dyaks change their faith, it is 
more commonly the case that they yield to the persuasions 
of the Muhammadan rather than to those of the Christian 
missionary, or, having first embraced Christianity they then 
pass over to Islam, and the Muhammadans are making 
zealous efforts to win converts both from among the heathen 
and the Christian Dyaks.' 

In the island of Celebes we find a similar slow growth of 

'^ Thomas Forrest, p. 371. - Essay towards an account of Sulu, p. 557. 

^ B. Panciera, p. 161. * J. Hageman, p. 224. 

* Veth (2), vol. i. p. 179. ^ De Hollander, vol. ii. p. 61. 

" Coolsma, p. 556. Koloniaal Verslag van 191 1, pp. 38, 41 ; 1912, p. 30. 


the Muhammadan religion, taking its rise among the people 
of the coast and slowly making its way into the interior. 
Only the more civilised portion of the inhabitants has, how- 
ever, adopted Islam ; this is mainly divided into two tribes, 
the Macassars and the Bugis, who inhabit the south-west 
peninsula, the latter, however, also forming a large proportion 
of the coast population on the other peninsulas. The interior 
of the island, except in the south-west peninsula where 
nearly all the inhabitants are Muhammadan, is still heathen 
and is populated chiefly by the Alfurs, a race low in the scale 
of civilisation, who also form the majority of the inhabitants 
of the north, the east and the south-east peninsulas ; at the 
extremity of the first of these peninsulas, in Minahassa, 
they have in large numbers been converted to Christianity ; 
the Muhammadans did not make their way hither until after 
the Portuguese had gained a firm footing in this part of 
the island, and the Alfurs whom they converted to Roman 
Catholicism were turned into Protestants by the Dutch, 
whose missionaries have laboured in Minahassa with very 
considerable success. But Islam is slowly making its way 
among the heathen tribes of Alfurs in different parts of the 
island, both in the districts directly administered by the 
Dutch Government, and those under the rule of native 
chief s.i 

When the Portuguese first visited the island about 1540, 
they found only a f